BY SHERI GASSAWAY
Construction is underway on Boeing’s new composites center where work on parts for the company’s newest commercial airliner – the 777x – is expected to create 700 new jobs.
The 367,000-square-foot building, which is an expansion of Boeing’s current tooling center in North St. Louis County, is scheduled to be complete by September 2016. The company is investing more than $200 million in the facility, which includes construction costs and equipment.
The composites center will serve as the powerhouse for the production of 777x wing and empennage parts. The 700 new jobs associated with the 777X work will be in production, engineering and multiple support areas.
Of those positions, at least half if not more will involve the skills of union craftspeople, said Steve McDerman, president/directing business representative of Machinists District 837 at Boeing. The new commercial jet work is expected to create between 350-to-450 new machinists jobs by 2017.
“Anytime we can get work in St. Louis, I’m ecstatic because it keeps our members working,” McDerman said. “We’ve shown that we can build a great fighter plane on time and done right, and we’ll do the same with the commercial aspect.”
In addition to the 700 jobs that will be created by the new commercial work at the center, the project has also generated work for those in construction industry, said Jeff Aboussie, secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council.
“It’s already created 150-to-200 construction jobs, and more work is expected from the project,” he said.
“We look for good things to come.”
COMMERCIAL WORK A FIRST
FOR BOEING ST. LOUIS
Boeing announced last year that it would produce 777X parts at its St. Louis site, essentially bringing back inside the company work that was being performed at suppliers or performed overseas for the current 777 program. Work on commercial planes is a first for the St. Louis location, which is renowned for its for military aircraft production.
“As we move forward with construction of our new center, we will significantly enhance our aerospace composite capability in St. Louis, positioning us for today’s opportunities, and tomorrow’s,” Bob Ciesla, vice president of Boeing Military Aircraft Cross-Enterprise Design/Build, said in a statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Boeing St. Louis and the entire region, which enables us to bridge to the future as a site with both commercial and defense capabilities.”
Gov. Jay Nixon credited Boeing’s decision to bring the 777x parts work to St. Louis to the state’s highly- skilled workforce and incentives approved by state legislature and St. Louis County officials. The amount of the incentive packages is unclear because they are based on several factors, including capital investment, the actual number of jobs created and wages paid to workers.
“Boeing’s decision to in-source commercial work to St. Louis for the very first time marks a historic moment and a huge win for Missouri, for Boeing’s workers and for Boeing’s more than 600 suppliers and vendors around the state,” Nixon said about the announcement.
PRODUCTION OF THE 777x AIRCRAFT
Prior to the announcement, Nixon made an aggressive pitch to help Missouri land full production of the 777x. With more than a dozen states vying to build the plane, Nixon called the Legislature into a special session to draft and approve a $1.7 billion incentive package to help Missouri compete for the job-generating project.
The package also included a commitment by St. Louis building trades unions to a 24-hour, five-day a week, no-overtime work schedule if Boeing selected St. Louis for production of the new plane and $1.8 billion in incentives from St. Louis County if the Boeing agreed to build the 777X at a site on the edge of Lambert St. Louis International Airport.
Boeing instead selected its Everett, Wash., location to perform fabrication and assembly of the 777X’s composite wing, as well as the final assembly of the plane.
DETAILS ON THE 777x COMMERCIAL JET
The 777X will be the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world with 12-percent lower fuel consumption and 10-percent lower operating costs than the competition. In addition, the 777X will bring cabin innovations and improved levels of passenger comfort. The 777X program has received orders and commitments for 320 airplanes from six customers worldwide.