In less than two weeks, the $13.8 million land deal for Boeing’s future expansion on 267 acres at Charleston International Airport will be signed, sealed and delivered.
The public comment period for the transaction on the Federal Register ended last week with only one submission. It came from the office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, an arm of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The comment was, “No comment,” said Paul Campbell, airports director and executive director of the Charleston County Aviation Authority.
Transfer documents will be signed Friday, and the sale will be finalized Dec. 13, he said.
For nearly a year, just about everyone’s been saying and reporting that Boeing is buying the airport-owned land. Actually, it’s not.
As reported Sunday in The Post and Courier, the land is being sold to Palmetto Railways, a Charleston-based arm of the S.C. Department of Commerce. It in turn will lease the dirt to Boeing.
That’s the way it was set up in the $120 million incentive package the state gave the company in April in return for the airplane manufacturer’s pledge to bring 2,000 additional jobs and another $1.1 billion investment to the Palmetto State through 2020.
Boeing already employs more than 6,100 people at its 787 Dreamliner campus at Charleston International and its interiors fabrication plant in Palmetto Commerce Park, both in North Charleston.
The land sale will lead to more jobs.
The first new facility on the new property is likely to be a paint facility for the 787. Boeing now sends its completed jets from North Charleston to Texas to be painted. It would make sense to have them painted locally. Boeing South Carolina top executive Jack Jones recently said an announcement will be made “very soon.”
And what about the 777X, Boeing’s updated wide-body version of its long-haul passenger jet? Will it have a place in North Charleston? That remains to be seen.
Boeing sent out request for proposals Nov. 22 to more than a dozen U.S. sites. Boeing wants to see who has the best bid to land the prized production and the jobs that will come with it for the new rendition of its popular 777 series airplane.
It would be nice to win assembly and wing fabrication in the Palmetto State, but from all accounts, North Charleston is likely to be a long shot.
Though some of the detailed design work and high-tech engineering for the 777X will come to the Lowcountry, it won’t be known until after the holidays where the plane’s assembly and wing fabrication will set up shop, according to Boeing. Maybe South Carolina will land part of it. The local plant is nonunionized, a major plus in Boeing’s eyes.
Boeing probably will take a long, hard look at Long Beach, Calif. That’s where the company makes its C-17 Globemaster cargo planes used by the military, but Boeing plans to end production there in 2015, instantly laying off more than 5,000 experienced plane builders. The facilities are in place, the workers are there and it’s home to a major port. It does have a union, the United Auto Workers, but it’s believed it might be easier to work with than the International Association of Machinists, which rejected an eight-year contract extension last month that would have guaranteed 777X production in Washington state in return for concessions.
And, of course, Washington state, which already has an $8.7 billion tax break for Boeing on the table, is not out of the running by any means.
The company wants to start production of the new jet in 2017 or 2018 and have it in the sky by 2020.
Whatever Boeing decides on the 777X, a lot of new jobs still are headed to North Charleston. As it’s been said, Boeing doesn’t intend to bank the land that the Commerce Department is buying for the company.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.