SEATTLE, May 16 (UPI) -- The Boeing Co. will assemble its next-generation airliner somewhere in the United States and asked cities interested in being the site of the potentially lucrative plant to send their bids to the aerospace giant by June 20.
Boeing said Friday that the selection of a location for the 7E7 commercial airliner plant would depend on a range of factors, including construction costs, regulatory burdens and even the likelihood of a natural disaster.
"We are in search of the site that will allow us to meet our needs most successfully and deliver to the world a safe and efficient airplane," announced Mike Bair, senior vice president of the 7E7 program.
Washington Gov. Gary Locke and local officials from around Puget Sound vowed to do whatever it takes to land the 7E7 project and give a badly needed boost to the region, which has depended upon aerospace and Boeing in particular as an underpinning of the economy.
"Boeing's decision about whether to assemble the 7E7 at our Everett facility arguably is one of the most critical economic crossroads our region will face in the foreseeable future," said Deborah Knutson, president of the Economic Development Council in Snohomish County, where 40 percent of the wages earned come from aerospace and other manufacturing jobs.
"We are proud of Boeing's Everett assembly complex and the skilled aerospace workers throughout our state that have made Boeing the world leader it is today," she added. "We strongly believe that Boeing's successful history here and the dedication of its workers gives us a strong advantage in the competition for the right to develop and assemble the 7E7."
Gov. Locke said he believed the state's highly-skilled workforce and existing facilities should give Washington a competitive edge.
Boeing, however, has criteria other than a skilled workforce. The company indicated it needed a place where the tax burden was not too great and the permitting process and environmental regulations were accommodating. In addition, the plant would have to be near existing transportation infrastructure and relatively safe from extreme weather and natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.
"That criteria that Boeing released today include many of the issues that Washington is already working on or has already completed," Locke said. "We're confident we can successfully compete for and win the final assembly of the 7E7."
The company said Friday it would only consider sites in the United States for the plant.
Boeing plans to offer the 7E7 to its customers early next year and begin production in 2005. The company anticipates building up to 3,000 of the fuel-efficient, 200-250-seat airliners over a 20-year period.
Shares of Boeing gained 26 cents, or 0.86 percent, to close Friday at $30.42 on heavy volume of 5.2 million shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)