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September 24th, 2010 - Heide Brandes

Boeing brings more jobs, opportunities to metro by relocating two major programs



While some employees from Long Beach, Calif., will make the move, other positions will become available to Oklahomans.

B-1_pensacola_show_7-06x4-44cmAn Air Force B-1B Lancer makes a high-speed pass.
In an effort to remain more cost-effective, the Boeing Company will relocate two major programs - including its B-1 Program - to Central Oklahoma.
More than 550 positions will be relocated to the Tinker Air Force Base area. While some employees from Long Beach, Calif., will make the move, as well, other positions will become available to Oklahomans.

For The Boeing Company, the decision to relocate to America's heartland means keeping costs down and its programs alive.

"Boeing is constantly looking at its long-range business plan, and the market today is very different," says Jennifer Hogan, Boeing communications specialist. "In today's market, we are seeing huge constraints on the Department of Defense's budget, more so now than ever before, and we have to change with the market."

That means moving to what Boeing is calling a "friendly business environment" with a lower cost for doing that same business. Oklahoma fits that bill, officials say.

Engine maintenance in Building 9001. Photo/Mark HancockKEEPING COSTS GROUNDED
Boeing's C-130 Avionics Modernization Program will begin relocation during the first quarter of 2011, with the B-1 Program following. Hogan says the move will be complete by the end of 2012.

"Oklahoma City and Oklahoma the state presents a huge cost savings in a lot of areas, like real estate and cost of living," she says. "It's less expensive to live here. By moving these programs here, we can increase our competitive edge to do business and to attract new business."

Although officials do not yet know how many of the California employees will transfer, Hogan says that many engineering, marketing and support system jobs will become available to locals.

"We usually have no problem hiring here," she says. "The talent pool is here, and we anticipate pulling from the region."

For Eastern Oklahoma County, Boeing's announcement was welcome news.

"Obviously, it means an opportunity to expand in that area around SE 59th and Air Depot," says David Burnett, director of economic development for the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce. "Engineering jobs will be coming here, and we feel those who choose to relocate to Oklahoma will choose this area to live. Many on the West Coast are very concerned with green living, and by encouraging them to buy and live in the eastern part of the county means they commute less and reduce their carbon footprint."

However, filling the workforce needs may present a challenge, he says. As a member of the Central Oklahoma Workforce Investment Board, Burnett says the challenge is being able to fill the high demand for skilled aerospace workers.

"We can only train so many at a time. There are only so many seats in our educational system for training," he says. "We need employees from other areas - like Long Beach or Wichita, Kan. - to come here. Tinker's talent demands are drawing a lot of talent, and it's creating a workforce strain on private industry."

Engine maintenance in Building 9001. Photo/Mark HancockDROPPING THE BOMB
Despite recent news and speculation on the B-1 Bomber's possible fleet retirement, Boeing still places its bets on the plane. Oklahoma City will continue to see work and revenue from the program, Hogan says.

A recent article in Time magazine speculated that in order to meet budget targets set by the Department of Defense, the Air Force had discussed retiring the 66-plane B-1 fleet.

But both Tinker and Boeing officials say, for now, the program is continuing strongly.

"First of all, the plane is not retired, and we're still working on it," says Ron Mullins, Tinker spokesperson. "As far as we know, until an announcement is made, the plane isn't retiring."

The B-1A was introduced in the 1970s to replace the B-52 aircraft, with the B-1B introduced in the 1980s. The B-1B Bomber continues to hold 50 world records in speed, range and payload. They continue to be deployed today.

bottom photos Engine maintenance at Building 9001. Photos/Mark Hancock
 
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