Patty in the News

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Sen. Patty Murray said Monday an estimated 11,000 jobs in Washington are at stake as Boeing vies for the Air Force contract to build the next generation of refueling tankers.

Boeing declined to disclose exactly how it arrived at the jobs estimate. However, spokesman Bill Barksdale said the figure includes Boeing jobs along with jobs at its suppliers and also non-aerospace jobs in Washington — everything from pizzerias and flower shops in Everett to bars and auto dealers in Marysville.

Both Boeing and its rival for the tanker contract, Airbus parent EADS, have each claimed tens of thousands of jobs around the United States, releasing figures state by state to score maximum political points.

Currently the 767 commercial-airliner production line in Everett is assembling one airplane a month. That slow rate employs directly about 600 production workers.

If EADS were to win the contract, those jobs would disappear as the 767 line closes down.

If Boeing wins, 767 production will likely rise to about three planes every two months, and thousands of engineers will get busy working on the tanker design.

The order for 179 planes worth $35 billion would extend the life of the 767 line and would likely lead to more orders for the air-refueling plane.

The non-aerospace jobs created from the aerospace economy are calculated using a multiplier ratio. For example in 2003, when the state worked out the impact of keeping the 787 assembly site here, a multiplier of about three was used.

That assumes the spending power of one new aerospace worker creates two jobs in service industries.

On that basis, it appears the 11,000 assumes about 3,700 jobs at Boeing and its suppliers in the state. These jobs would be a "blend of existing and new" jobs, Barksdale said.

The remaining 7,300 local jobs would come as part of a broad economic lift, and again would be a mix of new jobs and jobs saved.

Appearing Monday with Everett-area officials and union members holding signs that read "Doing it right in the USA" and "Best tanker made by American workers," Gregoire and Murray said the tanker program would impact a total 50,000 jobs and 800 suppliers nationally. Seventy of those suppliers are in Washington state.

Boeing said the overall impact on the state's economy would be worth about $693 million annually.

"Boeing is ready for this contract. Washington is ready for this contract. Our workers are ready to start building it tomorrow," Gregoire said.

Murray said the jobs are a reminder of what's at stake for the state.

"A robust aerospace industry in Washington state affects our businesses, schools, communities and families," she said.

The Pentagon plans to award the tanker contract by September.

The Pentagon has been trying for more than 10 years to start the process to replace Boeing KC-135 tankers that date from the 1950s. Past attempts have failed repeatedly for reasons ranging from bungling by the Pentagon to the criminal convictions of a Boeing executive and a top Defense Department official.

The Air Force formally reopened the bidding earlier this year.

- Seattle Times