With continued state help, Boeing will be growing

file/Tyrone Walker/staff Jack Jones, Boeing South Carolina’s vice president and general manager, fires up employees Oct. 5 before delivering to Air India the first 787 Dreamliner to roll out of the North Charleston plant.

Fresh off the delivery of his plant’s first 787 Dreamliner and the return of its second jet from painting in Texas, Boeing South Carolina’s top executive Jack Jones trekked up to Columbia last week to spread the gospel and shore up future support from the state government.

Speaking at the Governor’s Public Higher Education Conference on Wednesday, Jones plugged scientific learning and provided an update on that first plane’s fly-away performance.

He also dropped the latest hint at the sky-high potential of Boeing’s local operations.

Jones recounted his telephone conversation with one of the Air India pilots who guided the first S.C.-built 787 from Charleston through Frankfurt, Germany, to New Delhi, India last week. Setting the stage, he said “it’s not untypical” for even a longstanding program’s airplane to hear a handful of “flight squawks,” or complaints, from the customer airline after its voyage away from the factory.

“You know how many we got?” Jones asked, according to a radio recording of his speech. “Zero.”

At the end of his 25-minute address, Jones spoke of the support Boeing has received, not only from South Carolina’s educational institutions but from its elected officials, many of whom were sitting in the audience. His remarks echoed those made earlier this month by Boeing CEO Jim McNerney during a visit to Charleston.

Jones said if South Carolina supports Boeing the way it has so far, Boeing could be in the state for 100 years.

“You do that, you support us, it’s going to be the best marriage that Boeing has in any state,” he said.

He promised to continue hiring locals and said it wouldn’t be just to sustain Boeing South Carolina’s current 6,100-member workforce.

“I’m not going to tell you exactly, but there’s great opportunity,” Jones said.

“I have one of the most excited corporate leadership teams that I have ever seen,” he continued. “All they talk about is this place. And when you have that kind of excitement, and people that believe that highly in what we are doing ... it’s not going to be 6,100. There is huge potential just because of the success and thanks to you and all the huge support you gave.”

The next day, as if to seal their relationship, Jones announced Boeing’s $1 million gift to the S.C. State Museum.

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