Thousands of jobs could follow Boeing to South Carolina

The StateOctober 30, 2009 

Thousands of jobs are expected in the vapor trail that follows the arrival of a new Boeing assembly plant in North Charleston.

Because the Chicago-based aircraft maker keeps a lean inventory, industry experts said suppliers will need to locate in South Carolina for fast shipments.

"You'll get a good start to an aerospace cluster," said Scott Hamilton, a Seattle-area aviation-industry analyst.

South Carolina on Wednesday won a new assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner after state lawmakers approved an incentives package that included $170 million in bonds and a number of tax breaks. Gov. Mark Sanford will sign the incentives at a ceremony today in North Charleston.

Boeing also was considering the Seattle suburb of Everett, Wash., home to the company's original 787 assembly plant. But the aircraft maker chose the East Coast site after talks broke down between the Machinists union in Washington and company officials.

South Carolina is already home to nearly 80 Boeing suppliers and vendors, according to its corporate Web site.

Despite making the 787's rear fuselage plant in North Charleston, many of the suppliers listed said they do not work on the Dreamliner, suggesting opportunities for companies to come to support the new assembly line.

The line is expected to employ 3,800 by the middle of the next decade, but its arrival has sparked talk of attracting the number of total jobs created by state's other major big economic-development coup of the past 20 years, BMW.

Since picking a manufacturing site in Greer, the German automaker supports 23,050 jobs in the state - though it employs just about 5,000 at the plant, according to a study released last year by USC economic researchers.

But one industry analyst cautioned that a BMW-size boom could be difficult to reach. Because of the decentralized way Boeing is building the 787, more work is being done around the country, and fewer suppliers are needed near the final assembly plant in North Charleston.

"It's extremely wishful thinking," said Richard Aboulafia, aerospace analyst with the Teal Group outside Washington.

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