The stakes are high and time is short for Missouri to put together its bid as the place for Boeing to build its newest airliner. Word at the Capitol is that lawmakers might be called together as early as Monday to make sure all the pieces are in place.
The Boeing deal could make retention of Ford Jobs in Claycomo and expansion of the General Motors plant in Wentzville look small. Boeing already has 100-billion dollars in advance orders for an airplane nowhere close to production. Missouri is one of 16 states Boeing is considering for all or part of the work. Word is circulating at the Capitol that a special legislative session call is imminent.
Governor Nixon says such a session would be called to make sure state laws authorize the needed incentives He says he has had several high-level meetings with Boeing officials who have given “clear signals’ that Missouri should be as competitive as possible as soon as possible. He says a special session would “be on making sure we have the best competitive offer possible to get this multi-billion dollar investment, multi-thousands of jobs opportunity of a generation.”
Nixon has met with legislative leaders and says they understand the scale of the project and the opportunities for Missouri. He says his staff is working with a consortium of community colleges to make sure a trained workforce is available.
Boeing has decided not to build the plane in Washington, its historic industrial headquarters, after the machinists union refused to accept concessions. Nixon says Missouri’s unions are firmly on board with the state’s efforts.
Nixon says Missouri’s advantage is the economic development tools it put into place when it was working to keep full production at Ford’s Claycomo plant. “Most of those are based on withholding taxes of workers…at the new facility. That gives us a significant advantage where we’re not talking about writing a check. What we’re talking about is putting Missourians to work and then sharing some of the benefit to offset some of the significant capital costs for these major kinds of deals,” he says.
Nixon thinks the new airliner could be rolling off a St. Louis assembly line by the end of the decade.
“You have to prepare a large factory of muti- million square feet. You have to build that aircraft there. I think you’re talking about 2017-2020 by the time you’re seeing that first traunch of those delivered,” he says.
Representatives in the House are being told to be ready for the possibility that a special session will start on Monday. No details have been released on what the incentive deal going before the legislatlure might include but it is expected to be among the largest ever offered in Missouri. Washington lawmakers put together a $9 billion tax break package over 20 years that failed when Boeing’s machinists union voted down concessions the company was demanding.
Legislative sources say Boeing wants a proposal by December 11.
The legisalture’s senior member, Columbia Representative Chris Kelly, is among those who doesn’t like the pace at which the situation is developing. “The legislature would fail in its obligation to the taxpayers if it were to blindly rush in to some kind of $8-billion pig-in-a-poke,” he tells the Missourinet. Kelly says lawmakers are going to be asked to approve a deal in a week, but he says there is no reason not to take more time to consider such a large package.
He also thinks legislators should have been involved earlier, commenting, “This didn’t fall out of the sky two days ago. This has been going on for a long time and I don’t know one member of the legislature who is privy to any of the details. If they wanted immediate legislative action, they could have involved people long, long ago and we could have been studying on it.”
House Speaker Tim Jones says he is very interested in promoting any company like Boeing coming to Missouri, but shares Kelly’s sentiment about the amount of information available. He says details are, “sorely lacking at this point. The Governor has spoken generally about his discussions with Boeing and generally about what he believes Boeing is looking for…but until the Governor issues a specific call, and I think most importantly provides us with specific, suggested legislation he would like to see passed, I have to withhold any sort of judgment or comment.”
Jones says the $9-billion proposal that failed in Washington State doesn’t mean that Missouri has to approach that high a figure to be competitive. “That number is based on the State of Washington giving Boeing a reprieve from a certain tax over the course of the next 15-20 years. Missouri doesn’t have that tax so we’re already that far ahead.”