By Robert W. Pearce, Jr.

Like the Energizer bunny, Boeing South Carolina just keeps on going and going and going and going….

The Lowcountry of South Carolina had one of its biggest, if not the biggest, economic development announcements ever a couple of years ago when Boeing selected Charleston as its second airplane manufacturing site in the world. The Seattle region had been its only site for almost 100 years.

Since that original announcement, Boeing SC has grown to include over 6,000 employees working to produce three 787 Dreamliners a month at the facilities here. Orders for the revolutionary 787 total over 800 planes already with the original plan of building seven a month in Seattle and the other three here. Now Charleston might be accelerating to seven 787s a month as well.

Within a few days of the original announcement, I wrote a story here in the salmon sheets saying it was great that Boeing was bringing huge numbers of manufacturing jobs here, but that what we really wanted to see in the future was Boeing opening up an R&D operation here. Those jobs are the real high-paying jobs we want to see. But our Boeing story has now shifted and is turning out as we had hoped those couple of years ago.

Boeing has just announced a major expansion here in Charleston, saying it plans to add at least 2,000 additional jobs and invest another $1 billion over the next several years. The key to this announcement, though, is that these will include at least 1,000 new engineering jobs and at least 1,000 new IT jobs here in the Charleston area. This follows Boeing’s recent announcement of thousands of engineering and IT job layoffs in the Seattle region.

Do you think the unions in Seattle are finally starting to see the whole picture? Maybe a pattern yet? It often appears that the unions really don’t get it for some reason as various unions in Seattle continue to strike or threaten to do so.

In case the unions were still confused, the head of Boeing SC sent out a letter in May to all of his employees saying bluntly, “I want to be clear that it’s Boeing's desire to remain union-free in South Carolina. …” He didn't have to remind anyone that South Carolina is a right-to-work state, which makes it much harder for unions to organize here. You think Boeing originally came to S.C. because we’re non-union? Damn right.

And now they are moving some of their best jobs in engineering and IT here because we have proven that we can also make airplanes just as well as Seattle at approximately 35 percent less cost.

The new engineering and IT design center here will likely start working on the newly-designed 737 MAX airplane, which is also proving to be a huge hit with airlines around the world. This new design center and related moves of work to Charleston are truly going to be “game-changers” for us.

The 50th Paris Air Show just concluded, and all Boeing did was announce orders and commitments for 442 new Boeing planes with list prices totaling over $66 billion (yes, billion).

The planes ordered at the Paris show include two new variants of the original 787, with the new 787-9 and 787-10 receiving orders before the engineering has even really begun on them.

Boeing said in Paris that the new 787-10, the largest of the new Dreamliners, is so in demand by airlines that it alone might boost Boeing’s orders by 60 percent over time. That’s good news for us because the consensus of airline analysts believe the 787-10 can only be built in Charleston because of logistical constraints. The Seattle Times’ June 16 article on this topic said it all: “Everett [in the Seattle area] may be left out of 787-10 plans” because of these logistical issues. Think “union issues,” too.

Overall, Boeing said in early June that it has increased its projection of demand for planes by airlines worldwide to 35,000 new airplanes in the next 20 years worth $4.8 trillion (yes, trillion).

Maybe it’s a pun, but “the sky’s the limit” for us here with Boeing SC. With options on land here now totaling over 1,000 acres, Boeing SC has the room to expand for a long, long time and an increasing percentage of Boeing’s planes will be built here and not in Seattle.
Just wait — there will be more major announcements during the next few years that will prove the future of Boeing is actually here in Charleston.

Robert W. “Bobby” Pearce, Jr., is a business attorney with Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP and acts as general counsel for several regional businesses. He is also on the board of several Lowcountry and statewide organizations; he may be reached via bobby.pear This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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