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Originally published May 17, 2011 at 10:50 AM | Page modified May 17, 2011 at 8:37 PM

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Local leaders meet to keep new 737 plant in-state, and maybe in Bremerton

The Port of Bremerton continues to line up its ducks, should Boeing go forward on a new 737 airplane and need a place to build it.

Kitsap Sun

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BREMERTON — The Port of Bremerton continues to line up its ducks, should Boeing go forward on a new 737 airplane and need a place to build it.

Port CEO Cary Bozeman recently summoned a dozen and a half business chiefs, labor leaders and politicians to Bremerton National Airport, where they met with Washington Aerospace Partnership (WAP) co-chair Tayloe Washburn.

The WAP — a state-led coalition to keep aerospace strong in Washington — was formed in 2009 to support Boeing's bid for an Air Force tanker deal. Now it wants to make sure that if the aerospace giant decides to build a new version of its 737, the plant will be in Washington.

The media was not invited to last week's meeting, but attendees said Washburn told them that at this point, it's not about the Port of Bremerton promoting the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) as a site. Instead, it's about Washington communities banding together under WAP to entice Boeing to keep any potential 737 plant in the state.

"Yes, we want to stay behind the state. And then let's see what the next steps bring," said Kathy Cocus, business development director for the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA), who attended the meeting.

As many as 22 other states might be interested.

Boeing is expected to announce by the end of the year whether it will build a new 737. Eight Washington communities are interested, including Renton and Everett, which already have Boeing plants, plus Moses Lake and Spokane.

An unfavorable business climate and past labor problems were discussed at the meeting last week, attendees said.

But attendees said the more they listened to Washburn list what might be important to Boeing, the more SKIA looked good.

"The port is well-positioned in terms of facilities and infrastructure, as well as location to be able to to this," Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola said.

That seemed to go for the workforce, too.

Jim Nall, CEO of Paladin Data Systems of Poulsbo, said it sounded like Boeing was interested in what he called "artisans," members of the labor force who knew how to weld and work with aluminum.

Olympic College President David Mitchell said Boeing representatives previously had toured the shipyard and had taken notice of the apprenticeship program run there by the college and shipyard.

Other advantages for the port's bid might include the thousands of undeveloped acres in SKIA to build a plant. There would be room available for parts-makers, too.

"We've got enough land here where they could bring in suppliers," Bozeman said.

The Port of Bremerton recently was included in the WAP loop of interested communities by some lobbying by KEDA director Bill Stewart, according to Bozeman.

A new 737 plant would mean thousands of new jobs.

"Why not Kitsap County?" Bozeman asked.

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