Three cities in Washington are competing for an assembly plant that Airbus parent may build in the United States to snare Air Force aerial-tanker contract.
SPOKANE — Representatives from Everett, Spokane and Moses Lake — three cities with ties to Boeing — will meet next week with the majority owner of Airbus in hopes of landing a possible aircraft-assembly plant.
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The three will make pitches to Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defence & Space (EADS) as possible locations for a $600 million plant where aerial tankers might be built for the U.S. Air Force.
The plant is considered a longshot because the Department of Defense has not decided to replace its fleet of aging Boeing-built KC-135 tankers, and Congress would be required to open the contract to competition for EADS to be a contender.
The Pentagon in November nullified a potential $23 billion deal that called for Boeing to supply tankers based on the 767 passenger jet and said it would consider alternatives, such as opening the contracts to competition.
That piqued interest at EADS, which has said it would like to choose a U.S. location should it be chosen to build a replacement tanker. “It is a longshot for us,” said Theresa Sanders of the Spokane Area Economic Development Council.
The state Department of Community, Trade & Economic Development is coordinating efforts by the three cities that prequalified, Sanders said.
EADS asked states to select three cities that would be capable of providing the work force, transportation options and resources needed for a site to assemble the tanker, which would be based on the Airbus A330 passenger jet.
All three from Washington have links to Boeing: Everett is the site of the Boeing plant where 767s, 747s and 777s are assembled; Moses Lake has Boeing’s flight-testing facility; and Spokane is home to a former Boeing parts plant that recently won a $35 million contract to build floor panels for the freighter version of Airbus’ A380.
Representatives of the three cities are scheduled to meet in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday with officials of EADS North America, the company’s U.S. division. About 100 other U.S. officials also are expected to meet with Airbus officials, EADS spokesman Guy Hicks said.
Sanders said the visit offers a chance to check the list of expectations EADS has for a possible location, and to see who else shows up.
Based on EADS criteria, Spokane, Moses Lake and Everett are the only Washington cities that could qualify for the site, she said.
Airbus requires that a site have a 9,000-foot airport runway, room to build a 1.5 million-square-foot building and reliable transportation service, including access to a deep-water port for moving huge pieces of equipment.
Spokane would emphasize its relative proximity to the Tri-Cities in south-central Washington and its access via the Columbia River to the Pacific coast, Sanders said.
Whether EADS opens a U.S. assembly plant will depend on Congress and the administration, officials said.
In the Bush administration’s 2006 defense-budget proposal, the Air Force gets about $100 million to research the tanker question. If the administration approves a competitive bid, the Defense Department said it would be able to prepare documents in early 2006.
Within a few months, once all interested states have identified cities as possible contenders for the plant, the company will turn to a Texas-based consulting firm to winnow the group, Hicks said.