Boeing made big news here and beyond when it announced in 2009 that it would build a 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston.
And on Friday, the good Boeing news for our community kept coming when the company announced that it will nearly triple its land holdings by that facility near Charleston International Airport.
Jack Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, stated the obvious by saying the $49 million property purchase "makes future growth in North Charleston possible."
And though Mr. Jones added that the company has "no specific plans for the land" beyond building a facility where Dreamliners will be painted, and a fire station, those structures will require only a small portion of the 468 additional acres Boeing is acquiring.
You don't have to be an aviation analyst to know what that probably means.
As Saj Ahmad, who is an aviation analyst with StrategicAero Research in England, told our reporter: "The long-range plan at Boeing is to shift all 787 production to Charleston. You don't buy that much land and do nothing with it. It's only a matter of time before all 787s emerge from Charleston."
At this time, Boeing is still making some 787s in Everett, Wash. But the company has experienced repeated difficulties in negotiating long-term union contracts at that facility. And the availability of a skilled non-union work force in South Carolina was a major factor in Boeing's decision to build the Dreamliner plant here.
In fact, Boeing officials' honest assessment of that advantage prompted the union, and a National Labor Relations Board stacked in Big Labor's favor, to sue the company. The far-fetched grounds of that legal action: The company "intimidated" the union by saying South Carolina's non-union workers contributed to its business decision to build the factory here. That suit was settled in late 2011.
Boeing already employs more than 6,000 people at the North Charleston Dreamliner plant, and will be hiring thousands more here. It also generates economic activity that has created jobs with other businesses that work with the company.
Clearly, Boeing is here to stay.
And the Charleston County Aviation Authority clearly intends to accommodate the company's property needs. The authority still has nearly 500 acres that Boeing could buy for even more expansion.
Meanwhile, the North Charleston site remains one of the contenders for a facility where the company will manufacture its new 777X airliner.
Though Mr. Jones neither confirmed nor denied the industry consensus that Boeing appears primed to shift all of its 787 production here, he did say Friday:
"Our commitment to South Carolina is visibly demonstrated every day as our growth and expansion continues. I don't expect that ending anytime soon."
Good. As Greg Taiff, CEO of Private Jet Services, a New Hampshire-based aviation consultant firm, put it Friday: "It is only a great thing for South Carolina that Boeing is looking to take more land and increase the size of that campus."
And it is only encouraging to see Boeing increase the size of its operation in - and its economic benefits to - our community and state.