Officials and residents in the area around North Charleston are excited about Boeing moving an assembly line there. But the decision by the leader in aircraft manufacturing could have a far-reaching impact on the entire state.
Greenville Senator David Thomas, who says he met with Boeing officials last month, says the company expects to hire people from all over the state. And he says they expect to use suppliers all over as well. “Not just their current suppliers but anyone who has proven themselves before, Boeing is willing to look at them,” he says. And Thomas says Boeing has an interest in locating other product lines in the Palmetto State. He says if state and local officials work hard they will prove to Boeing that South Carolina is a great place for other Boeing product lines.
The Carolinas Minority Supplier Development Council is talking to around 100 subcontractors from South Carolina and North Carolina about serving the Boeing project, providing everything from plant construction to providing temporary sanitation, concrete installation, fire protection, aerial photography, and jobsite office cleaning.
Officials say Boeing construction contractors will continue to hire thousands of construction workers over the next month or two.
Thomas says, even though many workers around Seattle are saddened, he expects that Washington State will keep a lot of their business. “It’s not like Boeing is abandoning Washington,” he says. “I think what we’re seeing is Boeing not just staying in one region, but going to other areas of the country. And the good news for us is that they’re focusing on South Carolina.”
The North Charleston plant is set to begin production in 2011, with the first Dreamliner delivered sometime in 2012.
Thomas, who knows well what BMW did for the state, says Boeing will be bigger. “There’s not doubt that there will be spin off industries everywhere, and then suppliers spinned off of suppliers,” he says. ” Just as BMW was a phenomenal success, Boeing will be many, many, many times larger. And the expansion of lines and products, into the military, into aerospace, it’s going to burgeon all over South Carolina.”
Thomas explains how the important Boeing connection was made. He says it began with the fact that the company already has a facility in South Carolina. Then retired federal judge Billie Wilkins of South Carolina opened the door.
“Judge Wilkins had found out, quite by accident, what he says was the trouble Boeing had had when company officials first attempted to come into South Carolina and have discussions with leadership,” says Senator Thomas. “Wilkins knew someone in Boeing and made that connection, then they sent a high-level executive to meet with some low country senators, not with people at the Commerce Department.”
Thomas says then Florence Senator Hugh Leatherman and Charleston Senator Glenn McConnell worked out a plan to present to the company.