Boeing’s 777X wish list revealed

December 6, 2013

An artist’s concept of the 777X. States are competing for Boeing’s business (AP/The Boeing Co.)

In search of a new home for its latest long-range aircraft, Boeing is looking for land, transportation access and a huge factory — along with plenty of tax breaks.

That’s according to the company’s request for proposal, or RFP, which it sent out to at least a dozen states across the country. Boeing is keeping its wish list private, limiting access to the RFP to governors’ offices and asking those offices to sign non-disclosure agreements, but at least one copy leaked out, to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Several governors’ offices declined to share the document, saying they didn’t want to anger Boeing just days before the final proposals are due. Boeing spokesman Doug Adler Jr. said in an e-mail that the company isn’t commenting on the document.

The 11-page request lays out two scenarios: one in which a 777X jet would be assembled entirely within a 4.2-million square foot factory that would cost between $7 billion and $10 billion, and another that would require two buildings, a $2-4 billion facility in which to construct the plane’s new carbon wing and a $4-6 billion facility where the fuselage and the finished product would be assembled.

Boeing needs a site adjacent to an airport with a 9,000-foot runway to launch the planes, as well as easy access to a major highway and rail lines for parts deliveries. The company says access to a seaport that can handle container ships is a “desired” feature of its ideal site.

The 777X project would bring tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity to any state that wins the new assembly line. That allows Boeing to demand big concessions from the competitors — though the company politely terms the government handouts it’s looking for “desired incentives.”

Boeing wants the land for the facilities at no cost, or very low cost. They want states to pick up the tab for the new facilities, along with infrastructure improvements and new worker-training programs to churn out the high-skilled mechanics required to build the long-haul jets.

And this is subtle: Boeing says it wants the “[e]ntire applicable tax structure including corporate income tax, franchise tax, property tax, sales/use tax, business license/gross receipts tax and excise taxes to be significantly reduced,” according to the document obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

Boeing gets what it wants: Last month, Washington state, home to more than 80,000 Boeing workers, passed the largest corporate tax break in U.S. history, conditional on the company locating the 777X assembly line in the Puget Sound region. The legislature also debated a transportation package, though that measure didn’t advance.

Despite the push by Washington state, Boeing machinists voted to reject a contract the company proposed. After that vote, Boeing said it would seek proposals from other states, though it hasn’t named those states.

Media reports and legislative action hint at some of the contestants: A package of tax incentives worth up to $1.7 billion is working its way through the Missouri legislature, with a final vote expected Friday. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) both told The Washington Post they have connected with Boeing executives. And Alabama, Kansas, California, North Carolina and Texas have reportedly been asked for proposals.

Officials in Wisconsin and Georgia have said they will submit proposals on their own, though it’s not clear whether they were sought out by the company.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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