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'Very difficult news to digest': Everett community braces for possible Boeing 787 production move

With around 35,000 employees, Boeing is the largest employer in Everett.

EVERETT, Wash. — Stress levels are high in Everett as the city braces for what the consequences could be if Boeing moves its 787 Dreamliner production to South Carolina.

While Boeing has yet to comment on the report from the Wall Street Journal, many in Everett are concerned.

“As citizens of Everett, as citizens of Washington and our county, we need stability, and if you’re not willing to give us stability, then we don’t need you here,” said Alonzo Rakeem Smalls, an Everett resident.

Small said COVID-19 was already a huge blow to his community and he’s angry that Boeing could add fuel to fire by taking more jobs from the workforce while so many are already struggling.

“We need people who are willing to give us the opportunity to work and feed our families and if you’re not willing to give us that, then yeah sure, go to South Carolina,” he said.

With around 35,000 employees, Boeing is the largest employer in Everett. The 787 Dreamliner is just one of several Boeing jets built in Everett, though orders for new planes have been down dramatically since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

RELATED: Gov. Inslee: Boeing 'turning its back' on Washington state if Dreamliner moves to South Carolina

“This is very difficult news to digest,” said Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin.

Franklin said Boeing has not confirmed to her if the move is official, but the thought of the ripple effect it could have on the local economy is worrisome for the companies in Boeing's supply chain, as well as for Everett businesses as a whole.

“Whether it is grocery stores, restaurants, car dealers, any industry here is impacted by Boeing,” she said.

The Port of Everett is concerned about the implications of a possible Boeing move and released a prepared statement to KING 5: 

“If today’s news reports on the 787 move proves true, this would be a devastating loss that will have far-reaching personal and economic impacts on this community,"  Port of Everett CEO, Lisa Lefeber said in the statement. "The Boeing Company is the foundation and heartbeat of our city, county and state. COVID has hit our aerospace industry especially hard, and if a move of the line does occur, we will continue to advocate for its return to Everett once the aerospace industry and air travel resumes. Everett is the aerospace manufacturing capital of the world, and the Port of Everett will continue to do everything we can to help keep it that way. We still believe this is the best place, with the best workforce to build Boeing airplanes.”

The unions representing Boeing employees in Washington told KING 5 they are not buying it until they get that official announcement.

Economic Alliance Snohomish County said that it is also awaiting Boeing's official announcement.

“Snohomish County, The Boeing Company, and its world class workforce have a long history together," the organization said in a statement to KING 5. "Economic Alliance Snohomish County convenes businesses and government to align our interests in Snohomish County, and we are proud to have Boeing as a pillar of our economy. Together we will get through this public health and economic crisis and continue to create the future of air travel. We will help Boeing through the biggest drop in airplane demand in the history of the industry in every way possible. We, too, are anxious to hear Boeing’s official announcement to better understand how we can help.”

Mayor Franklin said the city has anticipated the possible move for months, so she’s worked with city officials and the city financial team to investigate how significant the impacts could be.

RELATED: Report: Boeing could move 787 operations from Everett to South Carolina

“The loss would really hurt our city and our families, but we are strong and resilient, and we will get through it,” she said.

Small, the Everett resident, said Boeing shouldn’t dictate the success of his city. He hopes his community can rally and overcome.

“Whatever Boeing does is what Boeing is going to do -- and what we have to do as a community is stick together and move forward,” he said.