Boeing is a frequent topic among local economic development groups

March 4, 2010


Mar. 4--South Carolina officials have hailed Boeing's plans to build an assembly plant for its 787 Dreamliner in North Charleston as the biggest economic development project in state history.

The company plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars and create about 4,000 jobs.

So what does Boeing's announcement, spurred by hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives, mean for Beaufort and Jasper counties?

Key players in the deal and local officials addressed that question in three recent meetings.

Ric Tapp, lawyer at Nexsen Pruet

Tapp's firm worked for Boeing to help broker the deal with the state. He spoke Wednesday during a Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce business event at Hampton Hall.

He said the 230-plus suppliers that provide parts for Boeing's plane should bring about 16,000 additional jobs to South Carolina.

Some suppliers might seek locations near the assembly plant, Tapp said, but such proximity does not tend to be an important component of Boeing's supply chain.

"None of this is so just-in-time sensitive," he said.

Other suppliers might want better trained workers than those available here, Tapp said. "But your technical colleges can take care of that."

Kim Statler, executive director, Lowcountry Economic Network

Statler, head of a public-private partnership that recruits businesses to the region, was slated to speak at another event Wednesday at Belfair in greater Bluffton.

The session -- titled "BOEING SC: Dreams Take Flight" -- was about how incentives can boost business in South Carolina.

Statler said Boeing's plant dovetails with fellow aircraft manufacturer Gulfstream's existing facility in Savannah and the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter, a next-generation military jet. Some of the jets are expected to be based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort by 2014.

Network officials, who have identified the aerospace and defense industry as one of its four focus areas, are scouring supply chains to find businesses that serve one or more of those aircraft.

Such businesses "now might find South Carolina a very appealing location for (its) next manufacturing facility," Statler said. "That's the kind of thing we're looking at."

Statler said network officials "have some good ideas" about prospects, but declined to elaborate.

Statler plans to make the case that aviation businesses should consider the Lowcountry when she travels with state officials to England for a major trade show in July.

The region's advantages include proximity to military bases, Interstate 95 and rail lines, Statler said. CEOs also enjoy the coastal quality of life, she said.

Disadvantages include the high cost of property and "very limited" existing facilities available for light manufacturing.

Unlike Tapp, Statler said the area's workforce should be an asset because a steady rotation of people leave local military bases with aviation experience.

She cautioned the network's strategy might not bear fruit immediately, but she said the long-term outlook is promising because Boeing's arrival allows the region to seek businesses it couldn't before.

"Fifty percent of the battle is making it known what your emphasis is," Statler said.

David Ginn, president and CEO, Charleston Regional Economic Development Alliance

Ginn's agency works to develop the economies of Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties. He spoke Feb. 16 at a Business 4 Breakfast event organized by the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Ginn said Wednesday local communities are ideally situated to capitalize on the presence of both nearby aircraft manufacturers.

When asked what benefit Boeing's plant might provide Beaufort and Jasper counties, Ginn said: "I would think Jasper County's position along I-95 and close proximity to both Charleston and Savannah would make it a good location for suppliers serving both the Boeing operation in our region and Gulfstream Aerospace in Savannah."