It seems like yesterday, but it's been three years since we waited anxiously to hear where Boeing would assemble its next generation commercial...

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It seems like yesterday, but it’s been three years since we waited anxiously to hear where Boeing would assemble its next generation commercial jetliner — dubbed the 7E7 “Dreamliner.”

The previous couple of years had been turbulent for our area at best. Boeing moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago, 9/11 threw the airline industry into a tailspin, and some predicted it was only a matter of time before Boeing would leave Washington state. It seemed less like a dream and more like an economic nightmare. Today, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is America’s aerospace beacon of prosperity — and it is coming together right here in Snohomish County. I’ve had a chance to view the success from two angles. As state senator, I fought to keep Boeing here. Now, as county executive, I’m working with others to maximize the benefit to our community of a thriving Boeing Company and aerospace industry.

The Dreamliner has renewed Boeing’s leadership in commercial aviation. Headlines now highlight brisk global orders for Boeing planes. At the same time, its main competitor, Airbus, is being buffeted by soaring costs, canceled orders and declining market share.

But we can’t take this for granted. Huge opportunities are on the horizon — including a second production line for the 787; where Boeing will assemble the replacement to its venerable 737; and possible sales of military refueling tankers based on the Everett-built 767.

Boeing estimates the commercial-airliner market will top $2.6 trillion over the next 20 years. Boeing could capture as much as 60 percent of that market, or $1.8 trillion. If we approach the global market competitively, we have a good chance that the lion’s share of those trillions will pass through Snohomish County.

We have seen the benefits of competitiveness — more high-paying jobs, multimillion-dollar investments in our communities and added revenue to pay for local services without having to raise tax rates.

Boeing and others are already investing millions in our area thanks to the Dreamliner. Goodrich Aerostructures Integration Services Inc. just opened a $20 million facility that will employ more than 80 employees by 2008. The recent opening of the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour is increasing our local presence in this global economy even more.

We must continue to compete nationally — even internationally — to retain our community’s standing as the epicenter for commercial aviation development.

Gov. Christine Gregoire has been an outstanding ambassador for aerospace, trumpeting Boeing and our region around the world. What is now needed is a coordinated team effort on multiple fronts.

A steady stream of skilled workers is vital to assembling a 21st-century jetliner. To get there, our education system — including outstanding institutions such as Everett and Edmonds community colleges — must have the resources to produce graduates with the skills to thrive in the global marketplace. And, as young adults weigh career options, we must underscore the importance and earning potential of skilled-laborer jobs.

Quality of life is another important factor for employers and employees alike. Employers know that attracting the best workers means not only providing the right job opportunity, but also the right place to raise a family. Employees need communities where there are great schools and affordable housing; parks and open space for recreation; transportation options to promote mobility for people and goods; and a quality of life that makes for a great place to work and live.

The Snohomish County Economic Development Council is working to bring public and private sectors together to accomplish these goals and encourage prosperity in our community. As a Snohomish EDC board member, I recognize the strength in building partnerships and the danger in complacency. I ask my colleagues in the Legislature in this upcoming session to adequately fund skilled trades, education and transportation to make sure Washington remains a competitive business environment.

The successful pursuit of the Dreamliner taught us that the future belongs to those who go after it. Although the first Dreamliner won’t be delivered until 2008, the past three years have been an amazing realization of the dreams and efforts of many. We’ve come a long way. But we’re not done yet.

Aaron Reardon is Snohomish County executive and a member of the board of the Snohomish County Economic Development Council.