Boeing establishing engineering design center, 737 MAX propulsion operation in South Carolina

File photo (Grace Beahm/

Grace Beahm

Boeing announced Friday morning it is establishing new centers for commercial airplanes engineering design and 737 MAX propulsion in South Carolina, yet another indication of the aerospace giant’s long-term plans here and its shift away from its historic base around Seattle.

The local engineering center will be one of three, the other two being in Washington and California. that will operate independently but also cooperatively with one another and the existing design center in Moscow, Russia. Earlier this year, Boeing announced it would take a similar approach to information technology, establishing centers in North Charleston, the Puget Sound region of Washington and St. Louis, Mo.

The 737 MAX propulsion announcement comes after Boeing announced plans earlier this month to bring 20 workers here to do engine inlet work for the new version of the company’s best-selling single-aisle jet.

The company said the moves help “lay the foundation for increased competitiveness” as Boeing strives to meet the “unprecedented demand” for commercial airplanes.

“Our opportunity for future growth is unprecedented and this helps us be more competitive by building on our team’s talent and capability – across Boeing, the United States and around the world,” Mike Delaney, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of Engineering, said in a statement. “With these changes, we are structuring Boeing’s engineering operations to support that growth, reduce business risks and to consistently provide the products and services our customers expect.”

The factory complex by Charleston International Airport has been exclusively dedicated to building 787 Dreamliner parts and assembling full planes. But that mission is clearly expanding.

The North Charleston operation, which includes about 1,000 engineering employees, now handles production support engineering for what’s made at the site and will “increasingly move towards aligning the ‘design where built” philosophy,” according to local company spokeswoman, Candy Eslinger.

“We expect that team will grow over the next several years,” Eslinger wrote in an email. “The growth will not occur immediately but will be proportionate with the work identified for the center and that fits with the strategic capability of the employees based in the center.”

The new local propulsion operation is part of “a thoughtful, disciplined approach to building our capability and capacity in integrated propulsion system design,” Nicole Piasecki, vice president and general manager of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Propulsion Systems Division, explained in a statement.

“We intend to be the industry leader in this area,” she said. “The Propulsion South Carolina team will begin with the design and assembly of the 737 MAX engine nacelle inlet and expand strategically on future airplane programs.”

Friday’s release didn’t specify any dates or job numbers.

Last month, Boeing announced it would invest another $1.1 billion and hire 2,000 more people in South Carolina over the next eight years in exchange for a government incentives package that includes $120 million in infrastructure funding.

Lawmakers involved in the deal said roughly half of those jobs would be in information technology and the rest would be engineering and production positions.

Check back later for more details.

Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.