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Originally published Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 4:13 PM

As Boeing soars, opportunity abounds for region's workers

The fight over Boeing's investment in South Carolina is important, but the most important thing is the success of the company here. And things are looking up, according to Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

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LOOK past, for a moment, the fight between Boeing and the Obama administration over Boeing's investment in South Carolina. It is important, but the most important thing is the success of the company here.

And things are looking up. Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in an interview with The Seattle Times editorial board that the company expects to deliver the first of the long-delayed 787s before Sept. 30. Boeing has orders for 835 of those planes.

Boeing expects to deliver 505 of various models this year and, two years from now, close to 700. Since November 2009 — a time of economic gloom — Boeing has hired 3,000 people here, most of them first-time employees. It expects to hire several thousand more this year.

Boeing's bullishness is welcome. After the mess of the McDonnell Douglas merger, the exodus of the corporate headquarters to Chicago and the disaster of the 787 outsourcing, it is a relief to hear some common sense, even on something as basic as why employees come to work.

"I don't think you go to the employees and say, 'Let's go to work for shareholder value.' " Albaugh said, in a reference to the management approach of a decade ago. Albaugh said the employees need to know they are building a great airplane, and that people's lives depend on them doing it right.

In the matter of the outsourcing, Albaugh vowed to "redraw the lines" on the next airplane.

"To be the premier airplane company in the world, we have to understand the airplane better than anybody else," he said.

That means some of the production of each part of future airplanes must be in-house, Albaugh said, and that crucial intellectual property not be given away to foreign rivals.

Cheers for that.

The company recently gave $4 million for Aviation High School — a signal that Boeing expects to be here, and providing good jobs, for a long time. On Monday, Boeing pledged $25 million toward a scholarship program for Washington undergraduates going into fields such as science and engineering. Indeed, Albaugh's worry about engineers is that there will not be enough of them.

All of which signals opportunity for people here. And that is good news.


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