States Settle Into Wooing War With Bids For Boeing Plane Plant

"Pick me!" That's what Boeing is hearing this week from the Carolinas, Missouri, California and about a dozen other places. They're submitting bids to build Boeing's new 777X airplanes and get thousands of new jobs in the process.

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Negotiations between Boeing and the machinists union in Washington State broke down again last night. The union rejected Boeing's latest contract offer. The deal would've guaranteed that production of the new 777X airplanes would stay in the Seattle area. Now, the aerospace giant may be taking those planes and thousands of jobs elsewhere.

Other states are eagerly courting them. But Michael Tomsic of member station WFAE in Charlotte reports that landing the aerospace company won't come cheap.

MICHAEL TOMSIC, BYLINE: The Charlotte area would be perfect for the new planes - as would the Charleston, St. Louis and Seattle areas, we'll get to those in a minute. But this part of North Carolina already has companies that supply Boeing, like Cyril Bath. Company Vice-President Mike Zimmer points to his factory's humming machines.

MIKE ZIMMER: They are producing Boeing 787 airframe parts.

TOMSIC: And when they start beeping...

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

ZIMMER: That's just the sound of a part being completed, that it's ready to be taken off the machine.

TOMSIC: Zimmer says Cyril Bath gets about half its business from Boeing. And if the aerospace giant decided to build its new 777X airplanes nearby?

ZIMMER: It would have a tremendously good impact for us and the community. We know from other companies that have moved into geographical areas, it brings a lot of other business in to support that.

TOMSIC: And this is an aviation hub, with a handful of other aerospace companies right down the road from Cyril Bath. Chris Plate heads the local economic development office.

CHRIS PLATE: There's a lot of areas that have aerospace but to have one community with the cluster that we've developed, to have 18 companies, I think we make a very compelling argument that this community can really help the Boeing facility.

TOMSIC: But there's that one place in South Carolina that also meets that criteria. Not to mention...

GOVERNOR NIKKI HALEY: We build airplanes and we build them well.

(APPLAUSE)

TOMSIC: That's Governor Nikki Haley at Boeing's plant in north Charleston, where workers put 787 Dreamliners together. South Carolina gave state and local incentives totaling $470 million to get that facility. Whoever wants that 777X will also have to pay up, says University of Missouri St. Louis professor Kenneth Thomas, who studies incentives like tax breaks and land giveaways.

KENNETH THOMAS: Boeing made it clear it's not going to take a deal without incentives.

TOMSIC: In that case, maybe Missouri is the perfect spot.

(APPLAUSE)

TOMSIC: Governor Jay Nixon got a round of applause when he signed a $1.7 billion incentives package this week to try to lure Boeing.

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON: When we clearly say we want to compete for this, there's nobody that could beat us.

TOMSIC: Well, California wheelers(ph) say they have the best workforce. Alabama's governor points out Boeing wouldn't have to worry about unions as much in his right to work state. But members of the union that built the original 777 in the Seattle areas say even though their negotiations with Boeing have broken down...

BRYAN CORLISS: We've argued all along that the only really logical place for Boeing to put the 777X is here in Washington State.

TOMSIC: That's machinist union spokesman Bryan Corliss. The Washington State legislature even passed an $8.7 billion incentives package to convince Boeing to stay. Adam Pilarski of Avitas Consulting Company says many aerospace analysts agree it would make the most sense for Boeing to build the new plane where it built the old one, in Washington.

ADAM PILARSKI: But many things that on paper make sense don't happen. Aviation is full of people with egos at 40,000 feet and irrational behaviors prevail.

TOMSIC: You hear that, North Carolina? And South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, California, Utah and everywhere else? There's a chance. For NPR News, I'm Michael Tomsic in Charlotte.

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