Dream on the line

David Ginn

A delegation of the Charleston area's top business recruiters flew to Washington state Monday for a weeklong visit that includes a tour of Boeing Co.'s main manufacturing hub and meetings with the aerospace giant's key suppliers.

The entourage is being led by David Ginn, chief executive officer of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, which markets the three counties to employers that are looking to expand.

The visit has raised some eyebrows in the Seattle area, where business boosters who are highly protective of their region's high-paying aerospace jobs still feel the sting of Boeing's

decision to build its new 787 assembly plant in North Charleston.

Still, officials in the Evergreen State are taking the trip in stride and don't feel threatened.

"They're going to do a big sell. I know they are, but I feel good about what we have here too," said Deborah Knutson, who heads Snohomish County's Economic Development Council. "I honestly don't think companies are going to pack up here and leave, but they could do an expansion in Charleston. And if an expansion need to be done, that's growing our companies, so it can be a win-win."

Knutson's group is demonstrating its own brand of hospitality by throwing a breakfast this morning for the Charleston area delegation and some top aerospace players. She said she thinks she knows some of the companies that Ginn's group plans to meet with, but she declined to identify them.

Joining Ginn on the cross-county trip are the economic development directors for all three counties: Steve Dykes from Charleston County, Gene Butler from Berkeley County and Jon Baggett from Dorchester County.

Heyward Horton, who recruits employers for the alliance, also made the trek, as did utility executives from South Carolina Electric & Gas, Santee Cooper and Berkeley Electric Cooperative.

Alliance spokeswoman Karen Kuchenbecker shied away from the notion that the purpose of the trip is to persuade Seattle businesses to relocate in the Charleston area.

"It's not technically to recruit," she said. "It's to get our community to understand what we can do to make Boeing successful."

Reach Katy Stech at 937-5549 or kstech@postandcourier.com.