Spokane Journal of Business

AIR Spokane group works to woo manufacturers

Boeing is among targets to attract to 300 'shovel-ready' acres

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AIR Spokane group works to woo manufacturers

Aerospace Initiative for Recruitment Spokane expects to complete several steps this summer to make a 300-acre site near Spokane International Airport "shovel-ready" for Boeing Co. or another major aerospace company.

Such a company potentially could develop 1.7 million square feet of building space there.

The initiative, called AIR Spokane for short, involves local government, airport, and economic development officials who since November have taken a collaborative approach to attract a large aerospace manufacturer or supplier to the West Plains.

Airport officials and GSI are taking a lead role in site planning and marketing efforts. AIR Spokane also includes representatives from the city of Spokane, Spokane County, Community Colleges of Spokane, and Airway Heights.

The top property in mind for landing an aerospace development is called the West Site and encompasses 300 acres south of McFarlane Road and west of Hayford Road, says Robin Toth, Greater Spokane Incorporated's vice president of business development. It's part of a 562-acre airport parcel owned jointly by the city of Spokane and Spokane County.

"We'll put together a presentation to take to the manufacturing industry and Boeing and the like so we can introduce what I would say is an offer they can't refuse—their only choice for expansion," says Patrick Rushing, Airway Heights mayor, and an AIR Spokane committee member.

He adds, "We have a lot of undeveloped land on the airport that could be very interesting and inviting to a number of aerospace manufacturing companies."

The West Site is within a nearly10-square-mile area of the West Plains that the city of Spokane annexed on Jan. 1. The site could include multiple structures, taxiways, and future connection to a nearby rail line for aircraft assembly or fabrication of composite parts shipped by truck, rail, or air. Anticipated road infrastructure upgrades include improvements to the Geiger and Medical Lake interchanges with Interstate 90, and eventual rerouting of Hayford Road to accommodate a third airport runway.

A second site also is being prepped as shovel ready as part of the effort. Called the South Site, it's about 300 acres in size and straddles the intersection of Electric Avenue and Thomas Mallen Road on the south side of the airport. About 40 acres of the South Site is within airport property boundaries and publicly owned, while about 250 acres is in privately-owned parcels between Electric Avenue and Geiger Boulevard to the south.

"The priority is the West Site, but you still have to have the other site because if you get a big manufacturer, they will want suppliers that could be located on that other site," Toth says. "They like to be on or close to an airport."

AIR Spokane took off from a statewide initiative last year called Project Pegasus—formed as an effort to keep Boeing's 737 expansion work in Washington—with Boeing ultimately deciding toward the end of last year to keep future production of its new 737 MAX aircraft in Renton, Wash.

Community leaders involved with AIR Spokane say Boeing is still on the recruitment target list for a possible West Plains secondary production line to Renton's main 737 MAX manufacturing site, but that recruitment efforts also will include reaching out to a number of other aerospace companies.

Toth says regional officials are working to complete initial site planning and engineering with some infrastructure in place so that when a company brings in a building plan, the development can proceed more quickly with some minor property improvements.

"You save a company about six months' worth of time because we do that planning upfront, so if they want to be in the ground in 18 months they can be, instead of 24 months," Toth says. "We want to make sure that if someone comes to look at the Spokane site, all the preliminary engineering work is done."

AIR Spokane in recent months has focused on completing a study for environmental impact and infrastructure needs for a big manufacturing site, a process which is nearly complete, says Todd Woodard, Spokane International Airport spokesman. Jim Kolva & Associates, of Spokane, was hired to do a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) checklist for the study, Woodard says, and both sites currently are in the SEPA evaluation process.

Costing about $75,000, the study is being funded jointly by the city, county, GSI and the airport, Toth says.

GSI also has selected ALSC Architects of Spokane to help create a marketing package that GSI and SIA officials will provide at the Farnborough International Airshow in England as part of a governor's trade mission to Ireland and England.

In addition to describing space for a large aerospace development with some architectural renderings, Spokane's package will describe the region's aerospace industry, workforce, educational opportunities, and home prices, among other area data.

The recruitment marketing package and architectural firm costs are expected to be in the range of $15,000 to $20,000, Toth says, partially funded by GSI, the airport and a city of Spokane Economic Development Innovation Fund grant.

"We're going to an aerospace show in Europe the first and second week in July, and we have meetings set up with several companies there to talk to them about the value proposition that Spokane has for aerospace investment," Toth says.

She adds, "We're not just representing that land but also we'll be promoting INWAC (Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium), and the activities they provide for suppliers or manufacturers."

Woodard says promoting INWAC at the event will show that the region offers a robust supply-and-service chain and trained workforce.

INWAC is an alliance of more than 60 companies in the region involved in the aerospace industry's manufacturing, services, and operations. Member companies in the aerospace supply-and-service chain here include two top suppliers. One is Goodrich Corp., the Charlotte, N.C.-based company that makes carbon aircraft brakes at a West Plains facility. The other is Triumph Composite Systems Inc., a Spokane-based subsidiary of the Pennsylvania-based Triumph Group Inc. that manufactures environmental control system ductwork, aircraft floor panels, and other nonstructural aerospace products.

Both Goodrich and Triumph supply Boeing. Also, many other companies here are certified Boeing suppliers.

Toth says she has heard speculation about Boeing's potential interest in Eastern Washington for future expansion, but the recruitment will target a number of aerospace manufacturers or suppliers.

"We can tell that there is interest from a number of people in Spokane," she says, adding that the interest being shown is why regional aerospace proponents are developing a recruitment package.

Woodard says Eastern Washington leaders decided to step up efforts to attract aerospace manufacturing here after a state competitive study for Project Pegasus identified a huge demand regarding Boeing's future 737 MAX line expansions. Boeing is expected to consider a secondary production plant if future monthly production projections are beyond what the Renton facility can accommodate because of landlocked space.

Woodard says members working for Accenture, a Dublin, Ireland-based consulting firm hired to do the state aerospace competitiveness study last year, visited Spokane airport property while gathering information for the report.

"Boeing has the current capital and infrastructure investment in Puget Sound to keep 737 MAX production in Washington, theoretically up to 60 airplanes per month," the report says.

The report says potential scenarios for moving parts of production from Renton and Boeing Field to other locations could include consideration of Snohomish County, Everett, Bremerton, Moses Lake, and Spokane. Expansion sites could include a delivery location, final assembly location, wing assembly location, and fuselage systems installation location.

Treva Lind
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Reporter Treva Lind covers natural resources and technology at the Journal of Business. A Nevada transplant and recovering swim mom, Treva has worked for the Journal since 2011.

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