EVERETT, Wash. - The day Boeing officially broke ground on its new 777X composite wing factory in Everett, Germany's Kuka Robotics announced it too would build a factory nearby – a 29,000 square foot factory that will provide robots that will rivet together the 777X's aluminum fuselage.
That was on August 13, but Kuka isn't the only company state and county economic development officials are talking too.
"We have a list of some 30 companies that are already here in Washington and looking to expand, or are in from all over the world and want to come here to be part of the aerospace industry," said Alex Pietsch, director of the governor's Office of Aerospace.
Pietsch says those companies range from one tiny three person engineering company wanting to move here from Europe.
"To others that employ several hundred people," said Pietsch.
It all adds up. Many of the companies are suppliers to Boeing, who see new opportunities in not only the 777X, but in the huge production increases in Renton, which is now producing 737s at the rate of 42 planes each month and heading higher to a planned 47 by 2017, including the new 737-MAX models.
Snohomish County alone has some 220 aerospace companies, according to the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County. And president and CEO Troy McClelland says the county is in serious talks with 10 more firms and at lower levels of discussions with another five to locate operations here.
"I can tell you there's more activity in the last several months than we've seen in the previous year, and the year before that," said McClelland.
Both men attended the Farnborough Air Show in July. Pietsch says some of the discussions with companies have been ongoing for years; others are more recent. But in the world of economic development, everything is kept very close to the vest. Nobody talks about the names of companies, at risk of letting too much information out.
Many of those companies were holding off until early this January, to see if the 777X would land in Washington or in another state. Boeing executives had threatened to move the airplane program without a controversial new long term contract with the Machinists Union. Union members narrowly accepted the offer just after New Year's.
But now the pace is picking up. Boeing plans to have its new 1.3 million square foot wing factory open in 2016 and be making wings by 2017.
But McClelland says it's not just aerospace companies that are being drawn in by the 777X and overall growth at Boeing. He says because aerospace gets in to new cutting edge technologies like carbon-fiber composites and 3D or additive printing, other companies want to be here too to be able to draw from the talent pool that aerospace attracts.