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November 11, 2009 at 4:00 PM

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Reflections on Boeing's South Carolina move

Posted by Letters editor

Northwest minds can sometimes be too open

As a native conservative from the Pacific Northwest, I am like a foreigner around here, so I was delighted to see someone refute the smug locals who think they deserve the second Boeing assembly line [“Cut the trash talkin’, Seattle, and strap on your hard hats,” Opinion, guest commentary, Nov. 8].

I lived in Charlotte for five years, so I have some idea of the provincial mindset here, but as author Ron Brinson said, that hardly excuses the caustic sore-sporting in the aftermath of this decision.

Although Brinson gently alluded to it, this is really all about the unions, and the antagonism, envy and entitlement mentality that they engender. They stopped serving the interests of the rank-and-file a long time ago, which is why their share of manufacturing jobs is nearly nil today.

Brinson was also polite in his characterization of this area as progressive. True, that’s how most people see themselves here. But despite that, they are prone to ugly bigotry, especially toward the South.

And in the business world, unfortunately, this sort of progress would have us still living in the stone age. I salute Brinson’s efforts to enlighten some minds here, which are too often so open that their brains have fallen out.

— James McCullough, Edmonds

Wake-up call rang long ago

Boeing’s decision to build a second 787 line in Charleston is not a wake-up call as noted in various articles and guest commentaries I have recently read [“Seattle slips off top perch for commercial real estates,” Business, Nov. 5].

The wake-up call came years ago when Boeing moved its headquarters out of Seattle to Chicago. The subsequent moves away from the Northwest have been as predictable as rain.

It should be assumed that without radical changes in the mindsets of both the political and labor communities, Boeing will continue to execute on their exodus from Western Washington.

These changes need to be addressed now, and should be dealt with at the highest levels of state government. South Carolina has taken all the right steps to woo this great company away, while our own political leaders seem to be living in the past, asleep at the wheel.

Labor needs to take a good look in the mirror as well. If they are not willing to substantially moderate their positions and soon, their future will most certainly be empty assembly plants and empty union halls.

If I were a Boeing worker now, I would be looking to move to Charleston to protect my own long-term interest, as no one else seems to be doing so.

I would hope there still is time to do what is needed to keep Boeing here long into our future. But make no mistake, action needs to be taken now to develop a new relationship with Boeing that will ensure their success into this millennium as well as the security and economy of this area.

No one should assume Boeing has any long-term stake in the Seattle area. To do so will jeopardize one of the great engines of this economy.

— Rob Salopek, North Bend

Taking Jon Talton’s advice one step further

Economic worries top regional and national concerns, as Jon Talton noted [“Our future economic strength depends on adding value,” Business, Nov. 8].

Top companies like Boeing and Microsoft seek to make the quick buck by selling out local constituencies in favor of cheaper labor elsewhere. Talton, as usual, offers us his sage advice: Keep the Puget Sound a competitive region by fostering innovation, education and a high quality of life. Keep one step ahead of the race to the bottom.

But can we really prosper if we accept the main tenets of the neoliberal model of free trade? If cheaper labor is always available elsewhere, are our jobs safe when companies can just pick up and go? And anyway, what future does the neoliberal model have in a world of diminishing trade and higher energy prices due to global warming and oil depletion?

What if instead we try to make the Puget Sound region a center of quality and stable employment by developing new economic models that tie companies to their roots. What if, at the same time, we tried to foster a new regional economy that puts us at the forefront of ecological sustainability.

We can do this by offering incentives to local companies to use regional products. We can explore new ownership models where workers and unions get a seat at the table, and a stake in the company. Our credit unions, an alternative to large distant banks, with help from local government, could be used to provide the needed seed capital.

With a new mayor promising green jobs, we have the opportunity to make Seattle an innovator not just of new products but of new ways of doing business. A robust and resilient local economy could make us secure and prosperous and less dependent on the fickle and devious attitudes of multinational corporations.

— Colin Wright, Seattle

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