Governor optimistic about Kansas bid for Boeing work

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email
Kansas is one of 22 states vying for work on the Boeing 777X jetliner.

Credit: Boeing

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WICHITA, Kan. -- As Boeing looks to narrow the field of states where it might build its 777X jetliner, Kansas leaders are hopeful the state will be in the mix.

Boeing said Tuesday it is looking at proposals for 54 sites in 22 states. Governor Sam Brownback said this week he is confident Kansas can compete.

For one thing, Brownback said, Boeing still has not sold the facilities in Wichita it announced two years ago it will vacate. The governor said Wichita also offers a skilled work force and the state has presented Boeing with what he called a competitive bid.

"It's a full package and it's aggressive," Brownback told KAKE News.

He would not say what incentives the package includes or how much it is worth. However, he said, the state is also reminding Boeing about the non-financial assets Kansas can offer.

"We have a better work force here than anywhere else in the world," Brownback said. "It's knowledgeable. They know how to do this. They know how to do it well."

Industry analyst Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of Analysis for Teal Group Corporation, believes the plane is likely to be built in the Seattle area, where the 777 is currently constructed, despite union rejection of a Boeing contract that asked for pay and pension concessions in exchange for the work.

"If this was a clean sheet of paper design, I think other states would have a chance, but it's not," Aboulafia said. "It's a major derivative, which means there's a huge premium on an experienced workforce that knows how to build the original version of this jet."

Aboulafia said, though Kansas offers a well-trained aviation workforce, the state also faces disadvantages. He said a complete Boeing jetliner has never been built in Wichita and the company has indicated it wants to build the plane near a Pacific port.

Another challenge, Aboulafia said, may be that Boeing machinists in Wichita are under the same master bargaining agreement with Boeing as the Washington machinists who rejected the 777X contract offer.

"If there's anything that's going to pull Boeing away from Washington, it's going to be a southern state with low labor costs," Aboulafia said. "No union problem at all to speak of."

Brownback said Kansas still has to try.

"We have the most diversified aviation sector anywhere in the world," he said. "I want to see it grow."

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