Boeing asks ‘more than dozen’ sites to submit bids for 777X jet; North Charleston ‘being considered’
Boeing has asked “more than a dozen” sites across the United States through formal request for proposals to submit bids to land production of the company’s new 777X long-haul jet, the Chicago-based aerospace giant said Saturday.
“We are not identifying any of those locations or the criteria we’re using in this process,” Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said.
Boeing’s campus in North Charleston is most likely on the list, said Paul Campbell, executive director of Charleston County Aviation Authority.
Campbell said he had not been formally notified, but, “based on the success Boeing has had here, I’m confident we will be on the list. We are being considered.”
Several high-ranking politicians in South Carolina, including Gov. Nikki Haley, said a week ago they had been in touch with Boeing officials about building the new airplane or some part of it in North Charleston.
“They know we are interested,” Campbell said. “Boeing loves South Carolina and our ability to turn and burn. I really do think we have a shot, but you are competing with some pretty good other areas.”
Among other sites likely to be on the list include Long Beach, Calif.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Huntsville, Ala.; San Antonio, Texas; and Washington state, where lawmakers have already approved $8.7 billion in tax cuts for Boeing through 2040.
Boeing wants all bids back by mid-December and will make a decision early next year, Alder said.
The bids can include work for final assembly of the new twin-engine passenger plane and for construction of its new composite wings, with tips that fold up.
“We will determine if this work is done at one location or at different sites,” Alder said.
Boeing made good on its pledge to look outside Washington state for competitive bids to build the new airplane after the International Association of Machinists rejected an eight-year contract extension through 2024. The contract would have ensured labor peace but required union members to make concessions on pensions and other benefits.
The company does not plan to re-enter talks with union members on a contract until the current contract expires in 2016.
Boeing assembles and makes parts for the 787 Dreamliner at its North Charleston campus at Charleston International Airport.
The airplane builder is also buying 267 acres along International Boulevard across from its sprawling 787 factory for undisclosed uses. A new paint facility for the 787 is likely to be on a small part of the property. Boeing now flies its completed 787s from North Charleston to Texas to be painted.
Earlier this month, the company announced some of the detailed design work for the 777X will be performed in North Charleston, as well as other locations across the U.S., including Huntsville, Ala.; Long Beach, Calif.; Philadelphia and St. Louis. A design center in Moscow will also play a part.
Boeing also broke ground earlier this month on a new 225,000-square-foot factory in Palmetto Commerce Park in North Charleston to build engine components for its 737 MAX airplane. The 48-acre site can accommodate future expansion up to 600,000 square feet.
Boeing is expected to start production on the 777X by 2017 or 2018 with the first flight by the end of the decade.
Earlier this week, the company picked up more than 200 orders for the new jet during the Dubai Air Show in the Middle East. Most of the nearly $100 billion in orders came from Middle East airlines.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.