Might Boeing 737 replacement be built here?

Curious minds want to know: Will Boeing replace its 737? If so, where? The widely used commercial jet is now made in Renton, Wash., southeast of Seattle.

TED S. WARREN

Would-be soothsayers who see Boeing Co.'s North Charleston campus expanding beyond its 787 Dreamliner focus are paying close attention to the company's plans to replace its hugely popular but aging 737 passenger jet.

The future of that airliner took a turn recently when analyst Richard Safran of the Buckingham Research released a report saying he expects the Boeing to replace the plane rather than retool it. And much quicker than previously thought.

The conventional wisdom was that the workhorse 737 would be given a slight makeover. And given the Boeing's intense focus on getting delayed 787 back on track, that wasn't supposed to happen until the mid-2020s.

But Safran's analysis puts a replacement 737 jet in service by 2020.

What does this mean for the local area's chances of landing work on the next jet? After all, it's already investing hundreds of millions of dollar to open a 787 assembly plant at Charleston International Airport, its first commercial aircraft plant outside of Washington state.

Boeing makes the 737 jetliner in Renton, Wash. Aviation analyst Scott Hamilton says an accelerated schedule for the replacement version could serve as a disadvantage for the Lowcountry. 'I think this might actually work against Charleston, which is still a ‘greenfield' site that has yet to solve its 787 problems,' he said in an e-mail.

Next chapter

Bi-Lo's 15,000 employees can now breathe a whole lot easier. The Mauldin-based grocery chain checked out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week with a strengthened balance sheet and most of its stores intact.

'We are excited to move forward as a financially stronger company,' said Michael Byars, president and chief executive officer.

Bi-Lo operates in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee and has about 15 supermarkets in the Charleston area. Its restructuring occurred after the 207-store chain filed for protection from creditors in March 2009 when it was unable either to refinance or repay a $260 million loan that was due. At one point in the reorganization process, the grocer was to be absorbed by competitor Food Lion, but that idea fizzled.

While in bankruptcy, Bi-Lo cut its debt by about $60 million. It is still controlled by Lone Star Funds, which made a $150 million investment in the chain. Also, Credit Suisse and General Electric Capital

have provided a combined $350 million in financing.

Bid adieu?

Going once. Going twice. ...

While no one wanted to see it come to this, it's very likely that the bankrupt Daufuskie Resort & Breathe Spa near Hilton Head Island will go on the auction block after conventional efforts to sell the remote property failed.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge John E. Waites this month approved a request to hold a possible auction of the assets of the remote resort. A date has not been set for the bidding, but lawyers in the case have targeted June as their goal.

It was in early 2009 that Bill and Gayle Dixon's Daufuskie Island Properties LLC filed for bankruptcy protection, listing debts of $88 million. A year later, time is running out for the resort, which is rapidly deteriorating, attorneys in the case have said.

Robert Onorato, the court-appointed trustee in the case, floated the auction idea in March as a backup plan. He has been financing the upkeep of the property with loans and is now relying on 'luck' and credit to keep it operating, according to Waites' May 7 order.

Other assets up for grabs include tennis courts, restaurants, an equestrian center and more than 500 commercial and residential parcels that can be developed. They could be sold together or in smaller batches.

Onorato thought he had found his white knight in December, when North Carolina-based

Montauk Resorts

agreed to pony up $49.5 million for the whole shooting match. The sale was to close by Jan. 15, but it got pushed back as the buyer tried unsuccessfully to pull together its financing.

Even creditors who support the auction concept acknowledge how difficult it will be to set sales terms that satisfy all of the competing interests.

Bonding

Investors placed 1,950 orders for nearly $28 million in bonds during Santee Cooper's spring Mini-Bond sale.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to fund capital improvements to the state-owned utility's transmission system, which serves electric customers throughout South Carolina. Orders will be taken for the fall 2010 sale during the month of October.

Motherly advice

There's a new delivery to the Lowcountry thanks to the launch of Charleston's only local mom-driven website.

NewbyMom.com is the connection center for Lowcountry moms written by Lowcountry moms. A kick-off party to celebrate the new website will be noon May 21 at Founders Hall at Charles Towne Landing in West Ashley. It's open to the public.

Run by seven professional moms, the online subscription-based website offers a network of online resources for mothers. Contributors include Cathy O'Hara and Angela May, both former Charleston TV anchors. The creator and editor in chief is Katie Newingham.