Sunday, November 01, 2009

Local leaders say Boeing plant will spur economic development across the state

By Patricia Burkett | WBTW Anchor/ Reporter

Boeing’s decision to land a new aircraft assembly plant in South Carolina should mean thousands of jobs beyond the plant’s walls.

On Friday, Gov. Mark Sanford signed an incentive package that includes $170 million in low-interest loans used to lure Boeing to the Palmetto State.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell said he expects two to three spinoff jobs for each of the 3,800 Boeing hopes to create in seven years.

Construction begins in November and it will take about 2,000 workers to build the new plant in North Charleston, near Charleston International Airport.

State Sen. Hugh Leatherman of Florence said he had been in talks with Boeing officials for the past six to seven weeks. He said he even continued speaking with Boeing officials during his recent overseas economic development trip to Asia.

Leatherman said he and McConnell spoke with a Boeing executive about what South Carolina had to offer, and assured the company official the Palmetto State would be the appropriate spot for its new facility.

“The two of us met, talked about what Boeing had to offer, what South Carolina could offer and sort of put together a tentative package,” Leatherman said.

Leatherman said he then found out that Boeing officials decided to take South Carolina up on its offer and locate the plant in North Charleston.

The announcement will permanently alter the course of economic development in the state, Leatherman said.

“We can’t imagine, we just can’t imagine ... it will change the economic landscape in this state forever. I don’t think any of us at this point in time can really imagine or evaluate the economic impact this will have on our state,” he said.

In terms of economic impact, the plant will not only provide thousands of jobs in the Charleston area, but some economic development leaders say it could help them entice future companies.

“Having such a large win that you can tout, I think it raises the eyebrows of other companies,” North Eastern Strategic Alliance Executive Director Jeff McKay said.

McKay said those prospective companies will be saying, “If Boeing did this, what is there that made them make that decision and should we be looking there as well?”

Though McKay said he doesn’t know yet how the plant will directly impact the Pee Dee and the Grand Strand, he does know it will only have positive effects on economic development across the state.

“I think it’s a tremendous win for the state and it’s definitely something that we as an economic development community will tout as the reason why companies should consider the state of South Carolina for their business expansion or opportunity,” he said.

Leatherman said the plant will create more jobs across the state in offshoot companies, just as other major plants have done in the past.

“We know up in Greer where BMW located, they have about 5,000 jobs but it created about 20,000 spin-off jobs for suppliers, vendors and things of that nature,” Leatherman said.

Economic leaders and lawmakers say they worked hard to recruit Boeing, and now Boeing will turn to South Carolina’s workforce to help make the company a success.

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