Indiana vying for $10B Boeing airplane plant

2013-12-15T00:38:00Z 2013-12-15T23:47:10Z Indiana vying for $10B Boeing airplane plantDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
December 15, 2013 12:38 am  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana is among 15 states, including Illinois, competing for a $10 billion Boeing airplane manufacturing and assembly facility that could employ up to 8,500 workers by 2024.

Gov. Mike Pence confirmed Friday that state economic development officials have spoken with leaders of the Chicago-headquartered company about building its 400-seat 777X jet in Indiana.

"We have had contact with them and discussions, but I won't comment further on those," Pence said. "I will tell you, every opportunity that we are given to tell Indiana's story and make the case for Indiana — we do."

According to Boeing bid documents obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the company is considering building a single 4.2-million-square-foot factory on a 400-acre site that would fabricate the plane's 114-foot composite wing and then assemble, paint and deliver the completed 777X.

At peak production in 2024, that facility would employ an estimated 6,750 production workers, 800 engineers and 950 administrative and support personnel.

The work also could be split between two sites — a $4 billion factory to fabricate the wing and a $6 billion plant for final assembly of the 777X, the documents say.

To land the plane, states will have to satisfy Boeing's long wish list of "desired incentives."

They include a low- or no-cost site and facility, state-paid infrastructure improvements, low overall cost of business, a pro-business tax structure with specific tax incentives for Boeing, easy permitting and state assistance in recruiting employees, among others.

In addition, the chosen site must be adjacent to an airport with a 9,000-foot runway, have highway and road access for parts deliveries and a direct rail connection on a dedicated spur line. A nearby port capable of handling regular and oversized containers also is "desired," according to the documents.

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Indiana is the most logical place for Boeing to build the plane, given the state's strong manufacturing workforce and Purdue University's aeronautics programs — and Northwest Indiana boasts all the road, rail, port and airport connections Boeing is seeking.

"I'm enthused about what it could do for the Northwest Indiana economy, and I'm hoping we're the ones in consideration, because I think it could be great for us," Soliday said. "I could build you a good case for a Gary-area location."

Soliday, a pilot and former United Airlines executive, said the soon-to-be completed 8,900-foot runway at Gary/Chicago International Airport, which is already home to Boeing's Midwest corporate jet fleet, "is as good as 9,000."

Indianapolis, Terre Haute and Fort Wayne all have airport runways exceeding 9,000 feet, though none have the same road, rail and port connections as Northwest Indiana.

A spokeswoman for the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state's commerce agency, said it has worked to show Boeing how Indiana fits into the company's long-term plans.

"Indiana is a state that works for business," said Katelyn Hancock, of the IEDC.

"Our talented workforce, enviable fiscal condition, strong job growth and the recent passage of the largest tax cut in state history are a testament to our story and make Indiana an attractive location for new investment and job opportunities."

Other states in addition to Indiana and Illinois known to be vying for the project include Alabama, California, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Missouri, where state lawmakers last week approved a $1.7 billion incentive package. Most states are crafting their proposals privately.

Illinois lawmaker Bill Mitchell, a Republican state representative from Forsyth, said Friday that Decatur, Ill., about 180 miles southwest of Boeing's corporate headquarters in Chicago, would be a prime spot for the company to build its new jet, according to an Associated Press report.

Illinois officials haven't detailed the state's bid for the factory, but they have called it a "compelling proposal."

The company is expected to choose a site early next year.

Boeing already has orders for 259 of the 777X jets, which each carry a price tag of nearly $375 million.

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