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While working furiously to diagnose and correct the smouldering-battery problem that grounded its 787 fleet in mid-January, Boeing also is playing catch-up on its PR problem.

An initial step, more than a month into the crisis, was depositing a pile of background documents on its 787 website, including the first detailed graphic of the battery system’s layout.

Another element may have been a late February profile of CEO James McNerney in The Wall Street Journal, which painted him as a decisive behind-the-scenes leader pressing Commercial Airplanes executives to “turn up your game.”

This past week the company took another step, one evidently intended to assess whether the Dreamliner brand has been tarnished.

Boeing emailed a short survey to people enrolled in what the company grandly calls its 787 “World Design Team” — members of the public who signed up as long ago as 2003 to get additional information on the cutting-edge plane and offer their reaction.

Initially the survey asks participants to rank their priorities when picking a flight, and to itemize what planes they’ve flown on during the past two years,

Then it instructs them to describe their attitude toward the 787.

Options range from “I will go out of my way to fly the Dreamliner” to “I will actively avoid flying on the Dreamliner.”

Finally it asks, “What three words come to mind when you think of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner?”

Spokesman Marc Birtel said Boeing, “like many companies, is constantly doing marketing and customer research to get a deeper understanding of the perceptions and opinions of travelers around the world.”

Indeed, it’s not the first time Boeing has asked participants if they would “actively avoid” the Dreamliner, he said.

Unscientific online surveys by sites like The Travel Insider and Issaquah’s suggest a large slice of the flying public views the Dreamliner unfavorably at the moment.

What Boeing’s survey will find, however, isn’t likely to be made public. “Like any other company we consider research results to be proprietary,” Birtel said.

— Rami Grunbaum,

Job recovery in state is slow, but not the worst

Take heart, Washingtonians: Our state should regain all the jobs lost to the Great Recession by spring.

Spring of 2014, that is.

IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting and consulting company, predicted last week that employment in Washington will hit its pre-recession peak in the second quarter of 2014.

At least that’s an improvement over the firm’s forecast from just over a year ago, when it said Washington wouldn’t regain peak employment till the end of next year.

Between February 2008 and February 2010, Washington lost 201,500 nonfarm payroll jobs, according to state Employment Security Department figures. Since then, the state has gained back 140,200 jobs, including a reported 24,100 in January (though state economists expect that number to be revised lower in coming months).

If that seems like a slow pace of recovery, it is. In fact, it’s the slowest recovery since modern jobs numbers began being tracked after World War II.

But it could be slower. Idaho, for instance, won’t full recover its lost jobs till mid-2015, and Oregon will be two quarters later, according to IHS.

So far six states — mostly in oil- and gas-producing regions — and the District of Columbia have fully recovered from the recession’s ravages, IHS data show. Six more are projected to regain all their lost jobs by year’s end.

But three states — Michigan, Nevada and Rhode Island — aren’t predicted to recover fully until sometime after 2018.

And none of these projections, it should be noted, have anything to say about how well the replacement jobs pay relative to the lost ones.

— Drew DeSilver,

For Seattle, a new leader in biotech red ink

Cell Therapeutics long was the front-runner among Seattle biotechs when it came to piling up big losses.

But the king has been dethroned, according to the latest financial filings.

The new leader in the Accumulated Deficit Derby is Dendreon, which recently reported its total losses since inception reached $1.95 billion at year-end.

Cell Therapeutics, which has been around for more than 20 years, in 2007 became the first local biotech to rack up cumulative losses of more than $1 billion.

And it has tacked on additional losses each year since, hitting $1.83 million at Dec. 31.

But the red ink has slowed, at least compared to Dendreon, which added $390 million to its deficit this past year amid sharp job cuts and the sale of its big drug-producing plant in New Jersey.

Of course, either company could reverse its growing deficit if its revenues start exceeding expenses.

Immunex dug a pit of $439 million in cumulative losses by 1999, then filled nearly three quarters of the hole in the following two years with profits from its blockbuster drug Enbrel.

— Rami Grunbaum,

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