SEATTLE (AP) -- Washington state's hopes of wooing an aircraft assembly plant that could be built by a major Boeing Co. rival may get a boost from a package of tax breaks designed for Boeing itself.
France-based European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co., the majority owner of Boeing rival Airbus, is collecting bids from state and local governments this week for a possible U.S. manufacturing site and engineering center. The location could be used to compete with Boeing for a multibillion dollar aerial refueling tanker contract from the U.S. Air Force.
The Economic Development Councils of three Washington counties - Grant, Snohomish and Spokane - officially submitted bids for the manufacturing site Tuesday through the state Department of Community Trade and Economic Development, department spokeswoman Michelle Zahrly said.
If EADS selects one of the state's sites, Zahrly said the company could qualify for some of the same tax breaks the state granted Boeing to lure that company to build its new 787 jetliner here.
In 2003, state lawmakers approved a $3.2 billion package of tax breaks for the aerospace industry over 20 years, contingent on Boeing assembling the airplane - then called the 7E7 - in Washington state. Zahrly said the specifications of who qualifies for the tax breaks leaves the door open for EADS to possibly get some of the same largesse, although she said it was too early to say how much the company could save.
EADS spokesman Guy Hicks said any tax breaks would likely be considered when the company looks at whether a potential site is business friendly. He said EADS also is considering other factors, such as cost of living and access to seaports, and he doubted that any one factor would decide the competition.
It's still far from clear whether EADS will get a contract and build an assembly plant, which would produce air-refueling tankers based on the Airbus A330 passenger jet.
Last year, Congress rejected a previously approved $23 billion deal for Boeing to build the new fleet of air-refueling tankers based on its 767 jetliner, citing ethical concerns about the role of a former Pentagon procurement official. The official, Darleen Druyun, is serving a nine-month prison sentence for lining up a job with Boeing while she was overseeing the bidding.
If the bidding is reopened, that would create an opening for EADS to vie for the contract.
Hicks said EADS is committed to building the engineering center, which would employ about 150 engineers, regardless of what happens with the tanker deal.
Boeing is based in Chicago but has the bulk of its airplane assembly plants in Washington state, including its massive factory for producing 747s, 767s and 777s in Everett.
The city of Everett, located in Snohomish County, has previously said it wasn't interested in the plant, and county officials also aren't playing a direct role in the bidding. But officials with the county's private Economic Development Council are pursuing the deal.