NC out, Horry appears still in race for Boeing plant

December 21, 2013 

— Boeing has decided not to build its newest plant in North Carolina, and local officials say they haven’t received a call from Boeing, which could be good news.

North Carolina officials said the aircraft builder told them Friday that sites in Charlotte, Greensboro and Kinston were out of the running as the site for a plant to build the new 777X airliner.

Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said Saturday he and other economic development officials in the area met with Boeing last week, not specifically about the 777X project.

“Boeing is exceedingly pleased with their reception and performance in South Carolina thus far,” Dean said. “That project that you’re referring to has some pretty stiff competition from a number of states. They’re likely weeding out the first round of applicants.”

At least 22 states presented Boeing with proposals to build the plane. Boeing is letting the sites know as they fall out of the process. The company hopes to choose the site for its newest plant in early 2014.

Horry County Chairman Mark Lazarus said South Carolina positioned itself well with the company.

“We’ve got some good locations in the state between our [International Technology and Aeronautical Park] and in Charleston,” Lazarus said.

Earlier this year, the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. assembled a package to present to Boeing that includes details of the 400-acre International Technology and Aeronautical Park and an additional 400 acres across the runway from the park site. The Myrtle Beach International Airport has recently approved a contract for the construction of a taxiway that will connect the ITAP site with the airport’s runways.

Last week, a Boeing executive said the company is narrowing its options as it searches for a place to build the 777X passenger plane.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner said Boeing has received 777X proposals from 22 states covering 54 sites. The company narrowed its options last week to "a handful" of sites, Conner said.

Production of Boeing's 777X would likely bring thousands of well-paying jobs to whatever region wins the work. The plane is a new iteration of its strong-selling 777, and the company recently received orders for 225 new 777X planes from three airlines at the Dubai Airshow.

Boeing began offering the 777X in May, but it's still finalizing plans for the plane and aiming to deliver the first aircraft by the end of the decade. Boeing has said it is expected to carry as many as 400 passengers and be more fuel efficient than the current 777.

Boeing is seeking a long runway, land to build a 4.2 million-square-foot factory, a number of tax breaks and access to interstates, rail lines and possibly a deep-sea port, according to a copy of the company’s pitch to states obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The company says the 777X will be the “largest and most-efficient twin-engine jet in the world” made from light-weight composite materials like the Boeing’s 787 aircraft.

In South Carolina, Boeing operates a 6,000-employee 787 jet manufacturing plant in North Charleston. The Lowcountry plant, which began rolling out Dreamliners in the spring of 2012, was the company’s first outside of the Seattle area.

This year, South Carolina gave Boeing another $120 million in incentives – on top of the state-record $450 million to lure the company initially – to expand the North Charleston plant.

The expansion is expected to involve the 737 jet and could add 2,000 workers.

Dean said regardless of where Boeing decides to build its plant, the state has left a positive impression on company officials.

“The good news for us, whether or not that project comes, I think they’re very pleased so far with what they’ve experienced with South Carolina and I think that bodes well for the future,” Dean said.

Staff writer Jason M. Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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