Pierce County Aerospace Summit highlights local successes, challenges in global market

With Boeing forecasting huge demand for new airplanes over the next two decades, Pierce County aerospace industry stakeholders spent Wednesday...

With Boeing forecasting huge demand for new airplanes over the next two decades, Pierce County aerospace industry stakeholders spent Wednesday discussing how to make sure this region maintains and grows its role in the global market.

“We have a built-in advantage. Our aerospace heritage goes back generations. But we know that’s not enough – not in today’s hyper competitive business climate,” Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy told 160 people attending the third annual Pierce County Aerospace Summit, which she co-hosted with the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.

Aerospace suppliers and representatives of government, education, workforce training, and financial programs participated in an interactive discussion about strengths and weaknesses in the local sector. Most agreed that Pierce County and the state are going in the right direction, as evidenced by Boeing’s decision to build the 777X in Washington State, including the tail assembly at its plant in the Pierce County community of Frederickson. Other highlights include expansions by local suppliers, as well as Boeing’s successful run last week at the Farnborough International Airshow, where it announced orders for 201 airplanes.

“These are important wins for us in Pierce County because we are all part of the Puget Sound shop floor,” said Bruce Kendall, president of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.

In the Aerospace Summit’s keynote address, a Boeing executive presented the company’s Current Market Outlook through 2033. Boeing now projects a global need for 36,770 new airplanes with a market value of $5.2 trillion. About one-third of that growth will occur in the Asia Pacific region.

“We are forecasting a strong, growing market that’s driven by customers flying where they want, when they want, especially in emerging markets,” said Jim Billing, director of market analysis for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “With the most comprehensive wide-body lineup in the industry, Boeing will be able to meet customers needs now and in the future.”

However, Aerospace Summit participants agreed that competition for that manufacturing growth is intensifying.

“We’re not competing just with Airbus, but with the states and countries that want to take some of what we have here and get those investments in their markets as well,” Kendall said.

McCarthy, Kendall, state schools Superintendent Randy Dorn, and industry leaders emphasized three concerns to address: persuading the Washington Legislature to pay for the long overdue completion of Highway 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma, a need the County Executive described as “arguably the most important economic development project in the state”; encouraging collaboration among government, private business and educational institutions to improve school performance so that youth are prepared to enter a changing job market; and urging Congress to reauthorize the Export Import Bank, which assists with many of Boeing’s business deals.

Alex Pietsch, director of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Office of Aerospace, said aerospace represents 11 percent of the wages in Washington state, with 1,350 firms employing 132,500 people. He noted that Boeing is experiencing unprecedented production increases. And last week’s announcement that Mitsubishi Aircraft is bringing its new regional jet to Moses Lake for testing demonstrates the value of the state’s expertise. “Thanks to the 777X decision, we will enjoy the vast majority of commercial market share for the next two decades at least,” Pietsch said.

Pierce County Aerospace Summit participants included representatives from General Plastics, ThyssenKrupp Aerospace, AIM Aerospace, Toray Composites (America), the U.S. Export Assistance Center, and WorkForce Central, among many others.

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To read the Tacoma Daily Index’s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Pierce County Aerospace Summit, click on the following links:

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