For more than 100 years, the lives of Washington state residents and Boeing have been intertwined. Over the last century, Boeing has grown to meet the needs of our country because of the commitment and hard work of the state of Washington. Boeing is the only major commercial airplane manufacturer in the United States, and since its founding, generations of men and women have worked at Boeing and hundreds of other companies that support it.
As former Snohomish County Executive, I know firsthand the importance of this large, complex industry to our region. Working together, we have faced many challenges — economic, transportation, education — even war in our world’s most challenging and desperate times. Time and again, Boeing and its employees rose to the occasion and helped tackle problems facing our communities and country.
Today, Boeing is facing one of its largest challenges yet. Nearly 350 people died in two deadly crashes of 737 MAX airplanes, prompting governments around the globe to ground the aircraft.
Providing the public with a safe and economical way to travel is at the heart of what Boeing and its 69,000 Washington employees do. Even as initial horror of the two crashes fade, the repercussions remain. Boeing’s leadership and workforce are grappling with the very real ramifications. They are hurting for the lives lost, and are working hard to identify and solve the problems. This is hard work on so many levels, with mechanical, engineering, process and management ramifications. There is tremendous pressure to move quickly, and just as much pressure to not make any mistakes.
This isn’t a challenge borne by some far-off company; this is the work being done by our neighbors. It is time for support, not derision.
Diminishing large corporations is a crowd-pleaser for many politicians; in fact, the love-hate relationship with large companies has a long history in American political rhetoric. But we should not be casual about the importance of Boeing and aerospace in our state.
Boeing is the anchor of our country’s aerospace industry. It provides jobs, health insurance and stability to tens of thousands of families in Washington and several other states as well. Aerospace alone contributes 10 percent to Washington’s economy. A sharp decline in aerospace would hurt those thousands of families, as well.
Most of those workers have spent their lives in aerospace. There is no other aerospace company waiting in the wings to provide thousands of new jobs and maintain a robust supply chain. Smaller companies would close and workers would face unemployment and, if they were lucky and able, long periods of retraining to enter other industries.
Boeing is not just another employer. The company directly provides support to countless nonprofit organizations, and Boeing employees are loyal volunteers and contributors to dozens of causes. The company invests time and money in veterans, the environment and neighborhoods, and it helps others in the business community recognize the value of these investments. The company’s leaders have long used their voice to advocate for an educational system that provides high-quality opportunities for all students. We have witnessed that support in the form of growing educational and career opportunities for our children and now their children.
Decades of Boeing investments and advocacy have made Washington innovative, growth-focused and STEM-strong. Our state has good schools, robust small- and mid-sized businesses, stable families and vibrant communities.
That kind of success is not accidental, and it doesn’t come from companies alone. It comes from people. And right now, we have to stand with the people of Boeing. We’re in this together.