Boeing supplier's expansion could trigger others

Boeing supplier PacRim Aerospace engineering firm is setting up shop in Charleston with plans to hire 100 over the next two years.

A Washington state-based aerospace engineering firm's decision to set up shop in downtown Charleston might be a signal that other Boeing-linked companies could choose the Lowcountry as well.

Kirkland, Wash.-based Pacific Rim Aerospace is now operating out of its new outpost at 214 East Bay St. with plans to add a second, larger office in North Charleston and grow its local workforce to at least 100 employees over the next couple of years.

The company, which goes by PacRim, is an engineering solutions provider for Boeing and other clients, including government agencies and private aircraft owners.

Company president and founder Jill McCallum toured the Charleston area in November with a group of women-owned businesses, but they weren't just any female-owned firms. The group, part of "Women in Manufacturing," represented about 10 companies and all are Boeing Co. suppliers, McCallum said.

She said it's possible that some of those could choose the Charleston region for new production sites, since most of them are manufacturers.

"We would collaborate with them," she said.

McCallum chose to set up an office where one of her biggest clients, Boeing, is located.

"We believe their commitment is strong in the region, which is why we chose Charleston," McCallum said. "Over the next 10 years, we see that as being a large center for growth in design and engineering for us."

The North Charleston office will be larger because "it's closer to the other tier-one (suppliers) that are supporting Boeing," she said.

Founded in 2007, PacRim employs about 30 people in Washington state, Australia and China. The surge of aerospace in the Southeast, led by Boeing's North Charleston presence and likelihood to grow, will mean the local operation will be larger than the home office in Washington state, McCallum said.

PacRim plans to support Boeing and other customers in the Pacific Northwest from its headquarters. It will work with Boeing's Southeast operations and other clients around the region from its new office.

"We are thrilled to be a part of this community and look forward to working with and developing local resources to ensure long-term quality and success to the region," she said.

Boeing assembles and makes parts for the 787 Dreamliner at Charleston International Airport, where the company plans to invest another $1 billion by 2020. It also is building a plant that will make engine inlet components for the 737 MAX passenger jet in the nearby Palmetto Commerce Park in North Charleston. That 225,000-square-foot plant is being designed for future expansion.

PacRim joins about 70 aerospace-related firms in the Lowcountry. The majority of those are in Charleston County, says the state Commerce Department's website.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.