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Boeing Live Event Coverage

Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates covers top industry events to bring you the latest news, highlighting how it impacts Boeing and its competitors.

July 11, 2012 at 5:00 PM

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Airbus, in U.S. drive, looking for suppliers in Boeing's home state

David Williams's job is to find more U.S. suppliers for Airbus and its parent company EADS. He wants to fish in Washington state.

"Washington is a key aerospace state," said Williams in an interview at Farnborough. "We're looking for suppliers who can add value to the EADS and Airbus supply chain and that's an obvious pond to fish."

Williams, vice president of procurement at Airbus Americas, met on Tuesday with Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington to discuss opportunities.
USA320 pin.jpg
He said that even though the euro has declined against the dollar recently, easing the currency whiplash that afflicts Airbus (its customers pay in dollars while most of its costs are in euros), the European jetmaker still wants to shift more of its costs to the U.S. dollar zone.

"We don't want our company at the mercy of the exchange rates," said Williams. "We want to take the risk out."

That's one reason behind the decision announced last week to locate a future A320 assembly plant in Mobile, Ala. (Above, a pin Airbus is handing out at Farnborough. My photo.)

But Williams fully agrees with Gregoire that even that move into Alabama can help Washington state aerospace suppliers.

The new assembly line in Mobile will need "new suppliers in pinch areas," he said.

"Washington state has a huge scale of capability," Williams said. "I see potential there for the U.S. generally, and particularly Washington state, which has such a strong aerospace heritage, can benefit from that."

Williams said he'll work with Gov. Gregoire's office to identify opportunities.

It's a far cry from the year preceding the Feb. 2011 Air Force tanker win for Boeing. In the period when that contract was in play, local politicians in Washington state repeatedly accused Airbus of accepting illegal subsidies and stealing American jobs.

Four months after the Boeing win, Gregoire began her attempt to heal the relationship when she met with Airbus officials at the 2011 Paris Air Show.

At Farnborough this year, she continued the wooing of Airbus to provide work for the state's 740 aerospace suppliers. Last year, Airbus gave those suppliers $200 million in business.

Gregoire said Boeing is aware of her approaches and has no objection.

Airbus spokesman Clay McConnell said Gregoire "has done a very good job of being an ambassador for the state over the last couple of years."