EVERETT, Wash. — These are nervous times in Everett and Snohomish County as Boeing continues to study whether to consolidate and move its 787 production line from Everett to North Charleston, South Carolina.
“We’re keeping positive, just focusing on our strengths,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “We need to scramble to see what we can do locally to make the case that it’s a good place to do business.”
Somers said the county is taking part in a two-track effort to try and convince Boeing to keep the 787 assembly line in Everett and position its Everett factory for the next jet program. One of those tracks is public outreach on social media to remind Boeing and its workforce that they are part of the Snohomish County family, according to Somers. That initiative is called the "Better With Boeing" campaign.
The other track is maintaining a dialog with Boeing executives and reminding them that Boeing, along with its workforce in Washington state and Snohomish County, is the best in the business of aerospace.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended Boeing as it has upended its airline customers. Although domestic U.S. flying has rebounded somewhat, international flights remain near record low modern-day levels. Most of the bigger twin-aisle jets built by Boeing in Everett are destined for that international travel market, including many 787s.
“It makes some sense to go to Charleston,” says analyst Michel Merluzeau of Air Insight Research. “That said, I see a continuing role for Everett in supporting the 787.”
Merluzeau said that may involve such work as installing interiors in jets that are largely assembled in North Charleston.
While Boeing framed its study as consolidating its assembly lines in one place, North Charleston was already the center of gravity for the 787 Dreamliner program.
The 787-10, the longest version of the Dreamliner, is only made in North Charleston. As the modified 747-Dreamlifter is limited in the size of parts, it can fly to Everett for assembly.
A decision on the relocation could come as soon as next month, but Reuters quoted sources saying the decision to move the Everett assembly line to Charleston is all but determined.
Boeing refutes that, saying no decision has yet been reached.
“We are engaging with our stakeholders, including the unions, as we conduct this study. We will take into account a number of factors and keep an eye on future requirements as we think of the long term health of our production system. Boeing remains committed to Washington state and South Carolina," the company said in a statement.