Boeing commercial airplanes CEO Scott Carson reiterated Thursday the plane maker's perennial call for an improved state business climate, pointedly reminding an audience of executives and politicians that for big corporations, "location is a choice."

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Boeing commercial-airplanes CEO Scott Carson reiterated Thursday the plane maker’s perennial call for an improved state business climate, pointedly reminding an audience of executives and politicians that for big corporations, “location is a choice.”

And seemingly addressing Boeing’s engineering and technical staff, currently in contract negotiations, Carson vigorously defended the company’s global outsourcing, insisting “operating globally means jobs at home.”

Though he acknowledged the “world-class work force right here in Puget Sound,” he also lamented the recent 58-day Machinists strike.

“We have got to find a better way,” he said. “There should not be an ‘us-versus-them’ attitude in labor relationships. We are all Boeing.”

Speaking at a Prosperity Partnership lunch in downtown Seattle, Carson obliquely referred to the “interesting slang” used by his predecessor, Alan Mulally, to make the point that Washington was uncompetitive. (“We suck,” Mulally infamously told assembled state business leaders in a 2003 address.)

But Carson expressed his own view more mildly.

“We have made progress,” Carson said. “But we have a lot of room to continue to improve.”

Yet he still hinted at the possibility of building future airplanes somewhere else.

“Companies have to make investment and expansion decisions based on remaining competitive,” said Carson. “Location makes a difference.”

He cited a list of major Northwest companies including Safeco, Washington Mutual and Weyerhaeuser.

“Some companies that were once Northwest icons are either gone or relocated,” he said. “Others appear to be gradually slipping away.”

Though Boeing moved its headquarters to Chicago in 2001, his point was that a better business climate could ensure Boeing’s major operations stay here.

He said Boeing is focused intensely on cost because of rising competition, not only from Airbus and rival U.S. defense contractors, but from nascent large-aircraft manufacturing operations in China, Russia, Japan, Canada and Brazil.

“It’s a jungle out there,” Carson said. “Aerospace is an incredibly competitive business, and it’s getting more so.”

Noting that Washington ranks 14th among the states in business-tax rates, Carson called for a state budget that preserves essential services without tax increases.

Other Boeing priorities, he said, are reform of the unemployment-insurance and workers-compensation systems to cut employer costs; completion of the state’s big transportation projects; and further investment in public education.

On the labor-relations front, Carson said the recent Machinists strike harmed Boeing’s reputation for reliability.

“Our customers must — absolutely must — be able to count on us,” he said.

In ongoing contract talks with Boeing’s other big union, the white-collar Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), global outsourcing has become a key issue.

Carson said having large Japanese manufacturers design and build airplane sections, such as the wings of the 787 Dreamliner, ensures jobs here in Washington.

He said Boeing has an 85 percent market share in Japan, “the largest market for wide-body aircraft in the world.”

“No one any more can go it alone,” Carson said. “Working with international suppliers and partners is an absolute necessity.”

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com