SEATTLE – Boeing said Thursday it will shut down the original assembly line for its two-aisle 787 jetliner near Seattle and consolidate the plane’s production in South Carolina as the airline industry tries to weather the global pandemic.
The move will begin in mid-2021. The company intends to keep assembling other jetliners — the 737, 747, 767 and 777 — in the Seattle area.
“Consolidating to a single 787 production location in South Carolina will make us more competitive and efficient, better positioning Boeing to weather these challenging times and win new business,” Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing’s commercial aircraft business, told workers in an e-mail.
The company did not immediately say whether jobs would be eliminated in the move, but Rep. J.T. Wilcox, the Republican leader of the state House of Representatives, posted on Facebook following a call with the company that the decision would affect about 900 jobs in Washington state.
Boeing had a statewide workforce of more than 70,000 people before announcing in April that it was cutting 10% of its employees.
The 787 is used mostly for international routes. Washington state in 2003 granted Boeing massive tax breaks — amounting to about $100 million a year — to entice the company to assemble the plane in the state. The subsidies were revoked earlier this year after the World Trade Organization found them illegal.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called Thursday’s decision on 787 production “an insult” and said the state would have to review tax breaks Boeing continues to receive.
“I understand the serious market forces Boeing faces today,” Inslee said. “What I don’t understand is why the company can’t commit to restoring production here when the market for this plane improves.”
Employees at Boeing’s plant in Everett, Wash., began building the 787 in 2007.
“We are committed to helping Boeing — and businesses large and small — grow and prosper in our state,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Thursday.