N. Chas. to be Boeing IT hub Streamlining plan to benefit area

Boeing plans to concentrate half of its information technology work in three places over the next few years, and North Charleston, where Boeing makes 787s, is one of them.

Gov. Nikki Haley likes to call South Carolina the “it” state for business or manufacturing. Soon it will be home to one of Boeing’s main “IT” hubs.

That’s right, the Chicago-based aerospace giant plans to concentrate half of its information technology work in three places over the next few years, and North Charleston, where Boeing makes 787s, is one of them.

Andrew Favreau, a company spokesman, said the reason for the consolidation is “to help us meet increased demand for our IT services across the company without really increasing the cost.”

“We’re really just trying to streamline how we operate,” Favreau said.

The details still are being worked out, and it’s not yet clear whether the restructuring will result in a new wave of high-tech hiring locally. But it’s another indication that South Carolina figures prominently in Boeing’s future.

According to the plan announced internally last week, first reported by The Seattle Times and confirmed by Favreau, the company envisions creating some 50 “centers of excellence,” which would bring together people with similar specialties, like infrastructure, in one place.

Boeing has about 7,900 IT employees, Favreau said, and some portion of those will become clustered in North Charleston, in the company’s longtime base around the Puget Sound and in its military center of gravity around St. Louis.

The local hub will be based in 32,000 square feet of leased space at 3875 Faber Place off leeds Avenue, not far from the 787 campus at Charleston International Airport.

Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman Candy Eslinger noted that is the same address where the company leased offices prior to moving into its final assembly building in 2011.

The other half of Boeing’s IT work will “remain collocated geographically where we are producing products and services and where we are supporting external customers,” Favreau said.

Favreau said the company still is studying “work statements” and “staffing” needs that will determine exactly how the plan plays out. He said there is no timeline yet for when the centers would start or become fully formed.

“Right now we’re looking at it as potentially a 3-year journey,” he said.

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He did not know how many new positions might be created in Charleston or how many IT specialists in North Charleston now could be asked to move.

“There will be new employees who come into the site, either new to Boeing or relocated, but how many there are, who they are, and what their IT specializations are is not known now because it’s too early to tell,” he said.

The IT restructuring is one of several recent large-scale personnel shifts at the company. Boeing has been whittling its contractor count at its North Charleston plant for months now and last week told its main blue-collar union that there could be 800 layoffs this year as plane production work increases but becomes more efficient.

Meanwhile, Boeing just settled on a price — $12.5 million — to buy 320 acres across International Boulevard from its 787 complex. Construction crews also are expanding the buildings on the existing Boeing site as part of an effort to increase production.

The 787 has been grounded since January after a pair of smoky battery malfunctions. Boeing is now testing its fix.

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