Even before Boeing announced drastic new layoffs that will hit Puget Sound hard, the need for a mutual reassessment was evident. Boeing’s ongoing business retrenchment will hurt in the near term. Washington state should focus on how to shape and aid Boeing’s long-range quest for renewal.
The direness of the company’s condition is clear. An ongoing 19% companywide workforce reduction will cut Boeing by more than 30,000 jobs from its 2019 levels. The company is expected to sit on immense empty space in its Everett plant and may sell its huge Commercial Airplanes headquarters office in Renton. There are operating losses, hundreds of undelivered 737s and 787s, and a pandemic eviscerating potential demand for years to come. Rival Airbus will deliver about 500 jets this year; Boeing, about 170.
Boeing’s standing, both in its industry and as one of Washington’s flagship businesses, has not been so precarious in decades. And while Boeing’s long-term decisions have moved its executives to Chicago and 787 production to South Carolina, the company remains immensely vital as a Puget Sound economic engine. The converse is also true. Because so much of Boeing is still Washington-centric, state policies about taxation, education, workforce and livability will affect the company’s ability to rebound.