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Region comes together to keep 737 MAX production in King County

King County Executive Dow Constantine Wednesday announced at Renton Municipal Airport the creation of a King County Aerospace Alliance that will promote aerospace jobs and economic recovery. - Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter
King County Executive Dow Constantine Wednesday announced at Renton Municipal Airport the creation of a King County Aerospace Alliance that will promote aerospace jobs and economic recovery.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter

With the Next Generation 737 flightline as his backdrop, county Executive Dow Constantine today (Wednesday) brought together leaders of all stripes who will work to keep production of the 737 in King County.

Building airplanes "is in our DNA," Constantine told a news conference overlooking the Renton Municipal Airport.

The 16 leaders from business, labor, education and local government are now part of the King County Aerospace Alliance, a regional effort to strengthen an already strong aerospace industry that's a key to the region's economic vitality and recovery.

A driving force behind the alliance's creation is the competition the Renton 737 production plant will face to build the newest member of Boeing's 737 family, the 737 MAX.

Boeing is expected to make its decision next year about where to produce the modified 737 which will have a highly fuel-efficient new engine. Boeing has made it clear it's keeping its options open.

Renton Mayor Denis Law said the city believes there is plenty of room at the Renton production plant to build the 737 MAX.

"We must work together to support Boeing, its suppliers and the aerospace industry as a whole, and continue to demonstrate that this is the best place in the world to build the 737 MAX.”

To prepare for the competition with other states, Constantine has asked the King County Council for $100,000 to produce a competitiveness study within 90 days that will assess the current state of the aerospace industry in the county.

The study will include actions that alliance members can take to support and grow the aerospace industry in the county.

“The factories are here. The workforce is here. The ability to move goods is here. Now we must act to secure our future as the leader in this vital and still-growing sector,” Constantine said.

"No one in the world can match what we have here," he said.

Julia Patterson of Seatac, who chairs the County Council's budget committee, pledged to work with the County Council on Monday to get the money to do the study and for $30,000 the county will pay to support the Project Pegasus, a statewide aerospace partnership.

Aerospace jobs have supported the county's middle-class families for decades and Constantine wants to make sure that continues.

A 737 engine run-up and a helicopter drowned out some speakers, but they helped make Constantine's point.

"That's the sound of family wage jobs," he said.

Constantine also recognized the need to train a new generation of Boeing workers who will replace the thousands who will retire in the the coming decades. The average age of an aerospace worker is 48.

Among those attending the event was Steve Hanson, president of Renton Technical College, which recently announced it had received a $2.1 million grant from the Department of Labor to go toward training aerospace workers at the college.

Representing labor in the alliance is Dave Freiboth, executive secretary of the Martin Luther King County Labor Council. He pledged labor's support for the alliance and its efforts to keep middle-class jobs in the county.

The members of the King County Aerospace Alliance are:

• King County

• City of Renton

• City of Auburn

• City of Tukwila

• City of Bellevue

• Seattle Port Commission

• Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

• Kent Chamber of Commerce

• Renton Chamber of Commerce

• enterpriseSeattle

• Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County

• M.L. King County Labor Council, AFL-CIO

• Aerospace Machinists District Lodge 751

• Renton Technical College

• Shoreline Community College

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