Boeing begins 737 MAX assembly in Renton; tangible evidence that policy matters

The Seattle Times reports that Boeing began assembly of the 737 MAX in its Renton factory last Friday. 

On a media tour Tuesday morning, Boeing executives showed off parts of the first MAX wings beginning their journey through a new, highly automated manufacturing process…

“This world-class team is building the future,” said Keith Leverkuhn, vice president in charge of the 737 MAX program. The MAX is set to enter service in 2017.

The Renton factory is churning out more airplanes, 42 jets a month, than any factory in the world. Even as the MAX is introduced into production, the plant is preparing to ramp up to 47 jets per month in 2017 and then 52 jets a year later.

As the Times reports, Boeing operates in a highly competitive arena.

The MAX is in an intense battle for market share with the Airbus A320neo, which launched about eight months earlier and is already in flight test. The neo has just shy of 3,800 firm orders compared with 2,724 firm orders for the MAX.

Our state is also operating in a competitive arena. Being selected by Boeing for the 737 MAX work was great economic news for the region and the state. In 2011, the Washington Aerospace Partnership published a competitiveness assessment looking at how Washington stacked up against other states vying for the work.  The Spokesman-Review reported on the study and the Gregoire administration’s response:

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is asking the state legislature for more money for education, workforce and transportation projects in order to keep the state at the forefront of aerospace skills and production.

In February 2012, Business Facilities magazine reported:

The recommendations helped form Gregoire’s action plan which included $9.8 million in state spending including aerospace-related education and training incentives, the creation of a new Governor’s Aerospace Office to oversee the development of the state’s aerospace center, and a 10-year extension of an existing aerospace tax incentive.

The action plan not only helped the state win the 737 MAX, it will also boost education and workforce training to strengthen its aerospace industry for the long-term.

Public policy played a critical role in securing the 737 MAX. The economic success factors – education, workforce training, transportation, and competitive tax policy – are fundamentals. They’re not limited to aerospace and they’re not one-time investments. The competition doesn’t stand still. 

The beginning of 737 MAX production is a timely reminder that public policy matters.