Boeing will relocate all 787 Dreamliner production from Everett to South Carolina, the company confirmed Thursday.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the move that would deeply impact the Snohomish County economy and region as a whole.
The decision comes as the company responds to the "current global environment" in order to "enhance efficiency and improve performance for the long-term."
"The Boeing 787 is the tremendous success it is today thanks to our great teammates in Everett. They helped give birth to an airplane that changed how airlines and passengers want to fly," said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "As our customers manage through the unprecedented global pandemic, to ensure the long-term success of the 787 program, we are consolidating 787 production in South Carolina."
People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that the decision to end production of that jetliner in Washington state comes as the "coronavirus pandemic saps demand for aircraft."
Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement on Boeing's decision and made remarks during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
"Washington state remains the best place in the world to build airplanes. Boeing's success as a company is a credit to the workers and taxpayers of Washington state. Today's announcement is an insult to the hardworking aerospace employees who build 787s," said Inslee's statement in part.
Boeing has assembled the Dreamliner in Everett for more than a decade. The company began assembling the 787-8 and 787-9 in Everett in 2007. It brought the North Charleston facility online as a second final assembly line in 2010. Only the North Charleston site, according to the company, is setup to build the 787-10 model.
Production of the smaller 787 models will continue in Everett until the program moves to the production rate of six planes a month in 2021.
According to Deal, the Puget Sound team will continue to work on building the 737, 747, 767, and 777 airplane families.
"We recognize that production decisions can impact our teammates, industry and our community partners," Deal said. "We extensively evaluated every aspect of the program and engaged with our stakeholders on how we can best partner moving forward. These efforts will further refine 787 production and enhance the airplane's value proposition."
On Sept. 21, KING 5 reported that Snohomish County was working diligently keep Dreamliner assembly at the world's largest building in Everett.
“We’re keeping positive, just focusing on our strengths,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers told KING 5. “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 has a two-pronged approach 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.
Rep. Rick Larsen says the move "sounds like a done deal." However, he also said it is a "misguided conclusion" from the Boeing company.
"I don't think this is the right decision for Boeing - certainly not the Pacific Northwest," he said.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Boeing's move would also force him to take "a hard look at the company’s favorable tax treatment."
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,” said 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, S.C.
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.
Gov. Inslee's full statement on Boeing's decision:
"Washington state remains the best place in the world to build airplanes. Boeing's success as a company is a credit to the workers and taxpayers of Washington state. Today's announcement is an insult to the hardworking aerospace employees who build 787s.
"I recently asked Boeing's leadership what the company needs to keep 787 production in Washington state. In all our conversations, they never asked for anything. I understand the serious market forces Boeing faces today. What I don't understand is why the company can't commit to restoring production here when the market for this plane improves.
"This news falls hardest on the more than 1,000 Washington workers who build the 787, and many more who face uncertainty as a result of this decision. The aerospace industry will remain a major employer in our state with about 70,000 workers. The state is committed to maintaining support for those companies and workers.
"But Boeing's decision to take the 787 to South Carolina necessitates a review of our partnership and the company's favorable tax treatment.
"We have the most talented workforce in the world and unparalleled infrastructure. We are consistently the top-ranked state for workers and businesses, and there remains a competitive business environment for aerospace manufacturing in our state."