Boeing’s economic effect returns with 737 MAX production

After a two-year slowdown, ramping up production means billions of dollars a year pumped into the Northwest economy.

RENTON, Wash. — As Boeing again ramps up production of its 737 MAX jet in Renton to pre-pandemic levels, the “trickle down” effect is already being felt across the region.

For much of the pandemic, the century-old company was on life support, with the global MAX grounding and global passenger travel paralyzed.

But now it looks like Boeing is entering a new era.

“We feel good. We’re coming back,” said Bill McSherry, vice president of government operations and global corporate citizenship.

“People are excited about the future,” McSherry said. “We’re all excited to come back and deliver to the levels we were before.”

Boeing is estimated to inject about $10 billion a year into the regional economy through employee salaries, charitable partnerships and thousands of other Northwest aerospace suppliers that produce aircraft parts.

Pioneer Industries, a Seattle-based aerospace manufacturer, is also rebuilding its workforce with 737 MAX production returning to nearly 31 planes per month. Pioneer makes several parts for the MAX.

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“Business is good. We’ve bounced back,” said Mark Behrends, vice president of businesses at Pioneer.

Behrends said the company was forced to cut dozens of jobs during the Boeing downturn. Pioneer used this time to train and improve operations. And now that he’s hiring again, Behrends believes Pioneer Industries is ready to come back stronger than ever.

“The Renton facility is huge for us,” Behrends said. “There are a lot of planes that are going to be made and that’s good too.”

Boeing said it was working with about 1,100 supply chain companies to help build its family of planes. Community Attributes Inc, a Seattle-based consulting firm, estimated that supply chain work supports about 16,000 workers outside of Boeing.

After two fatal MAX crashes due to a faulty control system that caused a global grounding, Boeing and the FAA agreed to new safety modifications designed to ensure the plane was safe to fly.

55,800 employees work for Boeing in Washington State. It is by far the largest concentration of jobs in the world for the company, most in King County and Snohomish.

And this newly accelerated production schedule for Boeing may just be the start. Reuters reports that the company plans to increase production to 47 737 MAX planes per month by the end of the year.

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