South Carolina keeps close watch on Boeing contract vote

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by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 13 at 7:33 PM

South Carolina has high hopes it could land the 777 X if Boeing moves it out of Washington. It's cheaper to produce planes there.  But South Carolina also offers a lesson in the difficulties of putting a complex airline assembly operation in a community that lacks the support and skilled workers of an aeronautical hub.

Puget Sound transplants like Jack Jones, who left a top management job in Everett to run Boeing South Carolina, say the welcome could not  be better.

"I absolutely love South Carolina, it's been very good to Boeing, they have supported us in many ways,” he said.

But the real allure for Boeing is the lower cost of living. Housing is about 33 percent less than in the Puget Sound, and there's the non-labor workforce.

Sources tell KING 5 when hiring, Boeing expects to pay workers about 14 percent less in South Carolina than up north. That means a machinist in Washington making $85,000, would make $73,000 in South Carolina.  But Boeing can often pay a lot less than that and have people competing for the jobs. 

“I think it's a very big deal, I think people here are excited about it and the potential for growth,” said one South Carolina worker.

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner plant near the airport sparked a building boom in north Charleston, historically a pretty desolate area.

But it's not a completely rosy picture.  Charleston's plant has struggled, with only a dozen Dreamliners coming off the line, compared to some 90 in Everett.

When asked if he feels production of the Dreamliner has been acceptable, Jones said “Absolutely, since have really worked through the issues & delays, I think it's going on exactly where we want it to go.”

Even so, Boeing may think twice about bringing another major production there until the Dreamliner project is operating smoothly.

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