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Originally published October 28, 2009 at 2:05 PM | Page modified October 29, 2009 at 6:23 AM

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Boeing picks Charleston for new 787 line

Boeing will build a second 787 final assembly plant in Charleston, the company confirmed.

Video | S.C. reaction

Seattle Times business staff

Boeing's board has voted unanimously to build a second 787 final assembly plant in Charleston.

"We're taking prudent steps to protect the interests of our customers as we introduce the 787-9 and ramp up overall production to 10 twin-aisle 787 jets per month," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a prepared statement.

South Carolina offered the company $170 million in upfront grants for startup costs, plus multiple tax breaks that would be worth tens of millions of dollars more.

The legislation assumes the company will invest $750 million and create 3,800 new jobs in South Carolina within seven years — if it doesn't create that many jobs, it doesn't get any of the money.

Boeing's decision could vastly increase the footprint it established in Charleston through primary partners on the 787 program.

At Boeing Charleston, the plant where Boeing bought out co-owner Vought this summer for $1 billion, about 900 workers fabricate the 787's single-piece rear-fuselage barrels out of composite plastic.

At the adjacent Global plant, owned 50-50 by Boeing and Alenia, 1,600 workers assemble the Dreamliner's central fuselage.

Albaugh said that "while we welcome the development of this expanded capability at Boeing Charleston, the Puget Sound region is the headquarters of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Everett will continue to design and produce airplanes, including the 787, and there is tremendous opportunity for our current and future products here. We remain committed to Puget Sound."

Boeing said that until the second 787 assembly line is operational in North Charleston, the company plans "transitional surge capability" in Everett to ensure the successful introduction of the 787-9, the first derivative model of the 787.

"When the second line in Charleston is up and operating, the surge capability in Everett will be phased out," Boeing said without giving specifics.

Boeing's decision to add a 787 line in South Carolina will make it that much harder for Washington to pull itself out of its jobs slump.

High-paying jobs such as those at Boeing support other jobs throughout the local economy — a Boeing worker buys a new fridge, the fridge salesman buys a sandwich for lunch, the sandwich-maker renews her gym membership, and so on. The more people work in well-paying jobs, the more jobs are created further down the economic food chain.

Local economist Dick Conway, who has studied Boeing's impact on the regional economy for decades, estimates that each Boeing job generates spending that supports 1.7 other local jobs — one of the highest "multipliers" of any private-sector employer. That means every job that Boeing creates in South Carolina represents nearly three jobs that won't be created in Washington.

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