When Boeing (IW 500/16) announced on Nov. 12 that it was building a new 737 MAX propulsion plant in South Carolina, Henry Taylor, vice president, Global Business Development for the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, felt that at least part of the reason for selecting this site was due to Boeing’s past success in the region.
"Boeing’s decision to add more work in the state is closely linked to its positive experience at the 787 plant,” said Taylor. “The company has found that we are business-friendly community to work with. “
Boeing employs 6,100 workers in the region with most based at its 787 Dreamliner factory at the Charleston International Airport.
In April Boeing announced another expansion of this plant investing an additional $1 billion and adding another 2,000 new jobs over the next eight years.
The 225,000-square-foot plant, being called Propulsion South Carolina, will design and assemble engine inlet components for Boeing’s single-aisle jet. Construction of the six-story building that will house equipment, offices and support space is slated to take about a year.
The first parts are expected to be produced in May 2015 and the plant will eventually ramp up for components to be produced for 47 planes per month, said Charlie Hix, director of Propulsion South Carolina, at the ground-breaking ceremony on Nov. 12.
"Another factor in the decision to locate in South Carolina was the success that Boeing had with our training program called readySC that provides a pipeline of available workforce for the plant,” said Taylor. The incentive program is one in which the state takes on the responsibility of customizing a training program for a company and provides the necessary resources including instructors, apprenticeship programs or even physical space for training.
In addition to the state’s 16 technical colleges, including Trident Technical College’s Aeronautical Studies division which prepares students for aircraft maintenance and aircraft manufacturing, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs ranging from Aeronautical Science to Supply Chain Management. Clemson University has a Composites Manufacturing Technology Center as well as the Center for Advanced Engineering Fibers & Films.
All of these educational opportunities have led to an increase in the manufacturing workforce which grew 5% between 2000-2009 allowing Charleston to be the fastest growing mid-size metro for aircraft manufacturing in the U.S. (80% job growth). The area also ranked as one of the nation's Top 10 mid-size metros for workforce growth in key occupations such as aircraft mechanics, computer hardware engineers, and electrical as of 2009.
Part of this is driven by the deep pool of military & defense talent located at regional organizations including the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR), the Charleston Air Force Base and a growing base of defense contractors and 10,000+ ex-military and government employees. Much of this knowledge and experience has direct applications in the aerospace industry.
The region has a number of well established companies such as Eaton Corp. , Parker Hannifen and SKF as well as many suppliers. And expansion in ongoing. “We continue to hear from both U.S. and also international comapneis that are looking to locate here to service the areospace industry.”