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King County Aerospace Alliance announces unified actions to support improved infrastructure for the industry

King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Aerospace Alliance, which includes Auburn Deputy Mayor Nancy Backus, today called for ways to support a “faster, stronger, better” infrastructure for the aerospace industry.  - Courtesy photo
King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Aerospace Alliance, which includes Auburn Deputy Mayor Nancy Backus, today called for ways to support a “faster, stronger, better” infrastructure for the aerospace industry.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Aerospace Alliance today called for ways to support a "faster, stronger, better" infrastructure for the aerospace industry.

The alliance's actions urge loans to support expansion of small aerospace companies and streamlined permitting and workforce navigators to guide students into good-paying aerospace careers.

The alliance is part of a new regional strategy for job growth and prosperity.

"This action plan is our road map to supporting our local aerospace industry with an infrastructure that is faster, stronger, and better," Constantine said. "We face global competition not only from legacy manufacturers in Europe, but from new, emerging manufacturers in places like Russia, Canada, China and Brazil. To be competitive, we need to compete, as a region, on a global scale."

Constantine convened the alliance in October to unite local governments, public sector groups, business, labor and schools toward one goal – fostering the global competitiveness of the local aerospace industry – an indispensable source of family-wage jobs in King County.

Alliance members spoke today against the backdrop of the new Aviation Maintenance Technology hangar at South Seattle Community College, an alliance member.

The Alliance's Action Plan is guided by the findings of a new study produced by Accenture, also released today, that confirms the competitive advantage in aerospace the region enjoys, while detailing the commitment, momentum and follow-through it will take from regional leaders to maintain that advantage.

Constantine and alliance members outlined six key action steps to support jobs and prosperity:

Support the creation of new aerospace firms and technologies

By the end of March, enterpriseSeattle will convene a series of meetings with angel investors, venture capitalists and university researchers to spur innovation through the creation of new firms and technologies.

"King County has a rich history of entrepreneurship and innovation in aerospace, with The Boeing Company being our greatest example," said Jeff Marcell, president and CEO of enterpriseSeattle. "The King County Aerospace Alliance will build on this history by working with existing firms and startups to drive the creation of new aerospace technologies to ensure King County remains the world leader in this industry."

In support of this effort, Constantine said King County will provide up to $2 million in below-market-rate loans to qualified aerospace companies, by leveraging federal block grants in the existing "Grow King County Fund" (Loans from this fund cannot be made to firms in Auburn, Bellevue, Kent and Seattle – cities with separate federal block grant funds).

Remove barriers and speed the process of new investment

To remove the barriers to new investment, Constantine announced the King County Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) will establish a single point of contact to coordinate review and to process permit requests at the King County International Airport – commonly known as Boeing Field – and its aerospace customers.

Alliance members will collaborate to provide aerospace companies with a faster and more efficient path to doing business in King County, by speeding the permitting process across all jurisdictions in the county, and working with the state and federal governments to make aerospace and advanced manufacturing plants easier to permit, while maintaining environmental protections.

Seattle and King County also will pursue a pilot project to promote industrial development and job growth within the City and the urban unincorporated area of the County.

Develop a pipeline of trained aerospace students into the workforce

While the average age of workers at Boeing is close to 50, local schools are graduating only half the number of trained workers that Boeing needs for production every year. The alliance will support creation of the next generation of machinists and engineers through a number of actions that promote today's aerospace industry as an outstanding career choice for students.

"This region's aerospace industry is rich in family-wage jobs with a great future in a wide range of career opportunities," said Marléna Sessions, CEO of the Workforce Development Council (WDC) of Seattle-King County. "Our responsibility is to make sure workers are trained to meet the demands of these jobs now and for the next generation."

Sessions said her group, for example, will work through youth programs to implement Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills programs that engage King County's diverse communities and all students. The WDC will work with labor and K-12 school districts to identify the best practices for training and developing the workforce, and share those ideas across all grade levels and schools.

Sessions said the WDC also will use federal workforce dollars to train at least 500 more workers in aerospace and advanced manufacturing.

Washington State University, another alliance member, will work with the Alliance to identify local internship opportunities for engineering students, giving students a foot in the door and industry the opportunity to check out new talent.

Coordinate our investments in mobility for freight and workers

The action plan calls for regional consensus to identify key roads investments that will fix traffic choke-points, such as the interchange of I-405 and Highway 167.

"Over 350 aerospace suppliers in King County serve a global supply chain where companies rely on getting their products within a specific window of time," said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke. "Whether it is just down the street to the Boeing Renton plant or around the globe to other aerospace manufacturers, efficient and reliable freight corridors and transportation options for their employees are essential to their success. If we are to remain internationally competitive, we need to continue making new investments in our roads and transit."

King County will extend the F Line RapidRide route to Renton Landing and the Boeing Renton Plant. Capital finding for the project is in place, and the alliance will partner with the County to secure operating funds.

Solidify our aerospace core to keep the jobs we have and create new ones

The action plan calls for development of an aerospace company database and an inventory of available industrial land; targeted recruitment of aerospace companies to fill gaps in King County's supply chain; and marketing of King County at industry events.

"The City of Auburn currently offers a Web-based property tracking system for our area real estate community to list available sites and assets," said Nancy Backus, Auburn Deputy Mayor and herself a Boeing employee. "We are pleased to announce that the City of Auburn and enterpriseSeattle will be expanding our current program to include all of King County, and we will make this available to all real estate professionals to showcase these important assets that offer expansion opportunities to our aerospace suppliers within King County.

"Auburn has been a vital part of the aerospace industry and of Boeing's growth since the '60s, and we see this as an opportunity for the region to succeed and grow for our children's future," Backus added. "The City of Auburn is committed and honored to be a part of the King County Aerospace Alliance. With today's release of the Accenture Study and Alliance Action plan we believe we can develop an even stronger network and aerospace cluster."

Collaborate across boundaries and jurisdictional lines with industry, other counties and the state of Washington

The alliance is fostering the long-term vitality of the local aerospace industry through a number of ongoing collaborations among government, industry and educational institutions, with the goal of making Washington state an efficient and productive factory floor.

"Renton is proud to be the home of the new 737 MAX, as well as the historic ramp-up in production of the 737 NG that is already taking place at Boeing's Renton Plant," said Renton Mayor Denis Law. "But we must continue to work together to make sure the Puget Sound region remains the best place for the aerospace industry to do business. By working across governmental lines, we can make our business climate more competitive while maintaining our region's high quality of life."

"This action plan is the blueprint for keeping our region an aerospace hub and providing family wage jobs in King County," said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, whose district includes Boeing and part of the Airport. "This multi-faceted approach will improve our economy."

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