Boeing's Dreamliner, a dream here to stay

  • Friday, April 26, 2013

By Rep. Chip Limehouse (R - Charleston)

In 2007 eyes around Charleston turned skyward towards an awkward looking aircraft – a Boeing made 747 Dreamlifter.

The Dreamlifter – a cargo plane built to deliver 787 Boeing Dreamliner fuselages – landed with a cargo so valuable, we may only now be realizing the rewards. The value the Dreamlifter carried was not represented by a fuselage but by the jobs and prosperity being delivered to the Lowcountry and to South Carolina for generations to come.

Boeing’s recent expansion announcement to invest another $1 billion and create 2,000 new jobs is what the company is calling their “Phase II” growth plan.

“Phase I” began with Boeing breaking ground in 2009. The company committed to investing $750 million and creating 3,800 new jobs in our state in eight years. Today, four years ahead of schedule, well over $1 billion has been invested and there are more than 6,000 employees on site at Boeing South Carolina.

SC House Speaker Bobby Harrell summed it up best when he recently said, “As it turned out, Boeing seriously under promised and over delivered.”

All this was just a beginning.

In an era when some corporate long range goals are measured in months, Boeing is planning for decades. Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger told the Associated Press, “With unprecedented demand for commercial airplanes including a forecast of another 34,000 airplanes required over the next 20 years Boeing is positioned for significant and sustained growth in the years ahead.”

This good fortune, this Dreamlifter carrying South Carolina’s golden egg, didn’t land here by chance. This glow of good fortune began with a point of light ignited when state legislators passed the 2005 S.C. Aeronautics Hub Act to seed industry interest in long term investment in our state.

Vought Aircraft Industries and Alenia Aeronautic began with fabrication, integration and transport of 787 components in North Charleston. When Boeing acquired the supply chain, opportunity knocked and South Carolina answered with the right economic development package and the right workforce. This resulted in the first-ever Boeing aircraft assembly plant built outside of Washington state.

Working with the Charleston Aviation Authority, Boeing is buying 320 acres nearby for this expansion and has first refusal rights to an additional 765 acres. Developing this land, which more than doubles Boeing’s footprint, is a massive undertaking.

To enable this “Phase II” build out, Speaker Harrell and state Sen. Hugh Leatherman co-sponsored an economic development bill to fund in part some core state infrastructure to develop this site. Your General Assembly acted swiftly to pass this into law.

In addition to the investment and the new jobs promised by Boeing, this expansion is sure to create a wave of new jobs all over our state in industries supplying Boeing.

If you want to see an example of this kind of economic synergy already at work, you need look no further than BMW in the Upstate. The expansion there drew about 40 supply chain businesses located all over our state. Boeing is a great example to the rest of the country – and the world – that business and economic growth can still thrive in America.

Washington and the Obama administration should take notice. We don’t need union bosses and the National Labor Relations Board trying to control, or kill, economic diversity. We are not only a Right to Work state, we are a Want to Work state.

Boeing found a ready, willing and skilled workforce in South Carolina. So did BMW. So will others.

Dissenters said South Carolina could never provide a workforce competent enough to produce the world’s most advanced aircraft. We proved them wrong.

The Dreamlifter landed in Charleston some six years ago. It brought the Dreamliner. Now, with Boeing’s new expansion, it’s pretty clear for South Carolina that the Dream is here to stay.

Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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