November 23, 2014
Rockford had made the shortlist of potential sites for Boeing Co.’s new 777X airplane — before the company ultimately decided the aircraft would be built in Seattle.
The Chicago-based aerospace giant had evaluated proposals from 54 sites across the country, said Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity spokesman David Roeder. That had been winnowed down to the single digits, believed to number 5, he said.
The Rockford site met Boeing’s needs in key ways, he said, noting Boeing wanted 300 acres; the Rockford site is 400 acres. It wanted a 9,000-foot runway adjacent to an airport, and the site has a 10,000-foot runway. The site also offered all the rail and highway access Boeing would have required for getting parts in and out of the plant, Roeder said.
“It has a very substantial workforce, a large and active aviation and aerospace industry there that uses job training programs already set up locally,” Roeder said. “In a lot of ways this property was just tailor-made for something as significant as what Boeing was planning to do.”
The aviation industry has more than 200 companies in and around the Rockford area and a large number of Boeing suppliers are present there, Roeder said.
But, alas, the company plans to build the plant in the Seattle area following a machinists union vote last week approving a new contract that contained concessions — and despite a challenge to that vote filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
“We’re moving forward with placing 777X work in the Seattle area,” said Boeing spokesman Doug Alder, who wouldn’t disclose which sites made the company’s short list.
But he noted the company is still making 777X supply chain decisions. So the door isn’t completely shut on Illinois potentially landing some of that smaller work.