Interior-fixtures factory to bring 150 Boeing jobs

Kent Craver, regional director of passenger revenue analysis, says the new 787 interior will be much more comfortable for passengers than existing passenger planes.

Boeing Co. plans to build a jet interior-fixtures plant, creating another 150 jobs on top of the thousands that will come when the company opens its 787 Dreamliner assembly plant next year.

The manufacturing facility, which company officials want to locate within 20 minutes of their North Charleston campus at the Charleston airport, will help workers outfit the inside of the passenger jets quickly, said Raymond Conner, a Boeing executive who oversees supply-chain management for the company's commercial division.

The Boeing Fabrication Interiors South Carolina facility will make airplane parts such as overhead stow bins, closets and partitions between flight classes.

Boeing already employs more than 1,300 workers at a similar plant at its Everett, Wash., manufacturing headquarters, but company executives said earlier this year that they want to duplicate its critical jet manufacturing operations in Charleston in case of West Coast work stoppages. A strike by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in 2008 cost the company an estimated $1.8 billion.

"We wanted to create some independence," Conner said.

The plant will open in early 2012, around the time that the North Charleston plant is scheduled to finish its first passenger jet.

Executives haven't picked a location for the plant, setting the stage for a potential bidding war among Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties. Each county has the power to grant economic incentives, such as tax breaks on a new building or on the manufacturing equipment inside.

"I'm sure incentives will come into play," said Charleston County economic development director Steve Dykes, who's responsible for recruiting businesses to the county.

Already, local and state officials used an incentives package worth more than $1 billion, according to a Post and Courier analysis, to land Boeing's second final-assembly line. That $750 million investment is expected to generate more than 3,800 jobs.

Gov. Mark Sanford, a critic of economic incentives, spoke at Monday's announcement meeting. Asked whether it was fair for adjacent counties to compete against each other for jobs and investment, Sanford emphasized that the state didn't offer any incentives to Boeing for this expansion.

"Counties are going to do what counties are going to do," he said.

The interior-fixture facility will hire workers who have gone through the existing training program set up for Boeing, which is paid for with state money.

Company officials hope to solidify a site for the estimated 250,000-square-foot building this summer.