Utah could become Boeing’s new home for next generation airliner

Posted at 9:34 PM, Nov 14, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-15 00:41:35-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- FOX 13 News has learned Boeing may be leaving Washington state after union workers in Seattle rejected a long term contract extension Wednesday night.

The deal to manufacture the aerospace giant's new plane would mean a big boost in jobs. Governor Gary Herbert met with a top Boeing executive Thursday afternoon.

Some may call it a competitive negotiation tactic. Boeing's contract was rejected by union workers in Seattle, so what does the aerospace giant do? It sends a top executive to meet with Utah's Governor, who of course is enamored with the idea of the company expanding in his state.

"This is extortion,” said one union worker in Seattle. “I think it's a take it or leave it thing; I'm not going for it.”

Angry union workers in Washington state said Boeing's contract deal is not just unfair but wrong.

"They're taking away the integrity, everything the union members ahead of us fought for,” Hazel Powers said.

However, their fight for fairness could push Boeing out of Washington and in to Utah, a right to work state which would welcome the aerospace giant with open arms. Gov. Gary Herbert released a statement shortly after meeting with a top executive from the multi-billion dollar company saying in part, "One of the country's best businesses expanding in one of the country's best places for business makes a lot of sense for many reasons."

Boeing has made Utah home for more than two decades, employing about 800 workers. Earlier this year, the company announced it would be opening a new 850,000 square foot factory in West Jordan. Now, they could be coming back for more and this time it would be to build its new generation airliner, the 777 X.

In a statement to FOX 13 News, a Boeing Spokesman said: "'The company has started to actively pursue its options, including those within Boeing and interest we have received from outside. We chose to engage in Puget Sound first, but with the contract rejection by the union, we will now open up the process competitively and review all options for locating the 777X work."

"We can't guarantee that if we don't take this contract extension the company won't move the work. It would be stupid to do so, but we've seen the company make stupid decisions before," said Paul Veltkamp, who is a union worker.

Some may say Boeing is simply trying to strong-arm union workers to say yes to their proposal. Either way, they've opened the door for other states like Utah to swoop in. Economically it would make sense, and it would generate not only money for the state, but also jobs. Still, Boeing is also looking at other states like California and even Alabama. The company tells FOX 13 News it will make a decision within the next few months.