Kitsap leaders closing in on plan to pursue 737 MAX work

By Rachel Pritchett

BREMERTON NATIONAL AIRPORT — Kitsap County very much was included in Washington Aerospace Partnership’s study that landed the Boeing 737 MAX in Renton and formed the basis for Gov. Christine Gregoire’s recommendations to boost engineering in education.

That came to light Thursday when WAP Co-chair Tayloe Washburn made his third visit to Kitsap County, where he revealed further detail of the study not yet made public to 20 top local leaders.

Now that the 737 MAX is secured in Washington, there’s a great tendency to “crawl back to our silos,” he said. “For you guys, that would be a mistake.”

Kitsap’s best bet in going after the 737 MAX supplier business would be to advertise the local workforce and land availability, he and one of the study’s authors, Craig Gottlieb said.

Target suppliers that are going to have to expand and let them know that Kitsap County’s workforce has a parallel industry in shipbuilding that is transferrable to aerospace, Gottlieb said.

Washington has about 650 aerospace companies, and 550 of them are Boeing suppliers. Of those, 100 are Boeing 737 suppliers.

The Port of Bremerton should let Boeing know it’s willing to lease space to subcontractors in the South Kitsap Industrial Area. Leasing would be cheaper than building new space, Gottlieb said.

Kitsap County competitors Moses Lake, with its dirt-cheap energy, and Spokane with its tight aerospace cluster also were in the study. And also prominently discussed was Texas, probably Renton’s toughest competitor. Texas might have been less costly for Boeing, but also might not have had the workforce productivity that Renton had. Because of the high anticipated demand for the MAX, Boeing has to deliver on time.

Washburn urged the group to pressure Gov. Christine Gregoire not to cut education further. The system needs to churn out a lot more engineers very quickly if Washington is to stay competitive, he said.

The mood among the local leaders that have met for half a year now was much more serious than in the past. Nearly all local cities mayors, economic-development chiefs, county Commissioner Josh Brown and representatives of Safe Boats International and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, seemed eager to do everything they could to grab a piece of the 737 MAX action for Kitsap. The re-engined 737 MAX project is the biggest manufacturing opportunity to come to Washington in perhaps decades.

The group, calling itself the KitsapAerospace and Defense Alliance, on Thursday had in hand a consultant’s analysis about local attributes on which new promotional materials will be based next year.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppolacq said, “I think we really need to brand ourselves.” The Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau’s brand of “the natural side of Puget Sound” doesn’t work for business, Coppola said.

Leaders agreed they’d try to have as big a presence as possible at the Aerospace & Defense Supplier Summit coming to Seattle in mid-March. It is the first time ever the global convention has been held in the United States.

Port CEO Cary Bozeman predicted “hard work” and “boots on the street” is next in the MAX chase.

The public version of the WAP study can be read on its website at

Kitsap County governments and businesses pledged $45,000 to help fund the study and be a part of it, but has not yet paid that amount.

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