The Death of Industrial Seattle

Seattle finds itself where Pittsburgh was in the 1970s and where Detroit was in the 1960s.

Comments

1

I agree with your assessment. However, I think you left out one thing: Boeing is not benefiting from this approach.

Boeing is not the company they used to be, or more importantly, could be. Following the merger with McDonnell Douglas, they had it all. There was only one major airplane manufacturer in the United States. They had long, lucrative contracts with the U. S. government, which would fund long term research. The approach should have been the same as that taken by tech giants like monopolistic companies like Google and Microsoft. How to grow to be as big as possible (not how can we cut costs). Tech companies aren't cheap when it comes to what they consider to be crucial employees. Boeing has been, and its bit them in the ass.

I had a long talk with a friend of mine, who has worked for Boeing for years. He said that they had a long history of outsourcing small manufacturing. They would write up the specs, and someone locally would provide (or make) the bit of plastic or aluminum. It worked out really well for them. The 777 was the last plane made that way, and it was a huge success.

But with the 787, they essentially built the entire plane by outsourcing it. Manufacturing fuck-ups caused huge delays, and with it, enormous losses. This was eventually followed by the 737 Max. A terrible plane that shares the same moniker with one of the safest, most reliable airplanes every built.

All the while Boeing kept making weapons for the government, and buying back their own stock. They are no longer a high tech company, with proud engineers and workers making quality aircraft. They are part of the military industrial complex, as focused on lobbying the other Washington as they are building passenger jets. That's not a bad business to be in (especially with so many Republicans in charge) but they could be that, and so much more.

2

The other thing to consider is that the greater Seattle area will still have aerospace expertise after this all shakes out. It wouldn't surprise me if Bombardier, or even Airbus ends up manufacturing planes (or parts) here. A lot depends on what the government does, of course.

5

While Boeing is of course huge you are leaving out a lot of industry that is thriving in Seattle.

On the Ship Canal there is Western Towboat which manufactures their own tugs in Fremont. Right next door there is Kvichak Marine where they are building ferries for the City of San Francisco. In Ballard there is Pacific Fisherman which dry docks and repairs vessels for the Clipper, Kitsap Transit, countless fishing vessels, and pleasure boats. Actually up and down the ship canal there are dozens of successful small businesses that either build or maintain marine vessels of all shapes and sizes. That's not even taking into account places like Coastal Transportation and their small fleet of freighters that make runs to Alaska.

Moving away from Ballard there's Vigor's shipyard on Harbor Island that can work on everything from Washington State Ferries, to USCG Ice Breakers, to US Navy vessels. And of course there's the numerous maritime terminals including the grain terminal, fisherman's terminal, and the cargo facilities in Elliott Bay.

All of these places I've mentioned offer good high paying jobs for people who aren't tech bros.

Business and Industry in Seattle is so much more than Boeing and Amazon but you would never know that by reading the Stranger. You ignore the businesses that provide good high-paying blue collar jobs, and are completely indifferent to the fact that your Tax Amazon obsession can destroy these places.

6

A Seattle Longshoreman’s daughter applauds you, Sir Toby.

8

Spot on Mudede.

10

@9,
You have a point. Seattle is an incredibly expensive place to reside in the USA. Especially to own a home. I just read last week that the median price of a home is roughly $825,000 and in one neighborhood it is $899,500. That is an insane cost. Even a skilled machinist for Boeing can't afford that.

A working class person simply can't live here. I do see a future for non-manufacturing jobs to be moving "remote". That trend is a result of COVID-19. But for people who work manufacturing, they aren't going to live in this town. They can work here but I believe those boat builders have a long commute to afford housing.

11

Aside from a few office buildings and part of the Boeing Field plant, Boeing doesn't have any facilities in Seattle. It's all Tukwilla, Everett, Renton and Moses Lake (as well as some places way the hell out past Puyallup)

And I'll quietly murmur that Boeing pulled out of Wichita, but stayed in the Puget Sound. I wouldn't close the lid on the coffin just yet.

14

@9 is the only one here commenting on the cost of housing in Seattle. It's a real problem for anybody not making big bucks. I returned to Seattle after first living there after Vietnam veterans returned to find no jobs in Montana, several of us young families went for the Boeing jobs. That ended with "last one to leave Seattle, shit the lights out", in the aftermath of huge layoffs by Boeing, 1970 I believe. 2017 I returned to a bustling Seattle, crazy traffic & very, very expensive Housing costs. I couldn't wait to escape, to Alaska, where the reputation of high housing costs is a joke compared to Seattle. Will that change anytime soon in Seattle? Doubt it. Even if people leave and either sell or get foreclosed on, the monies people control that real estate, there's no chance for common workers to get a leg up. Loyalty & idealistic or wishful thinking about a cool place to live will keep some there, despite themselves.

16

It seems pretty obvious that Boeing has long been destined to move production out of the Puget Sound area. Labor costs will rise, which threatens Boeing's profit. Is it logical to attempt to appease Boeing with tax breaks and special treatment if their departure is inevitable? I think the author gets this analysis 99% right.

The real question is: what will stop those jobs from leaving South Carolina in 20 years when labor costs rise, moving production to South Africa? Can the cycle of industry building up and then hollowing out a city be halted, or is this just the way of Capital and something we must accept?

17

The City Council and the Mayor hate businesses...so no surprise that businesses are leaving.

18

In 2017 Boeing stole:
• $96 million from the 40 percent reduction in the Business & Occupation (B&O) tax rate.
• $82.5 million from B&O tax credits for activities related to setting up production equipment for the new 777X and the 737 MAX jets.
• $34.1 million from B&O tax credits for property excise taxes.

That's money that doesn't get invested in infrastructure and human services. Say want you want about the tech giants here, they don't get these breaks.

19

"and now even these areas ...which are in the "halo effect" of Seattle are seeing their production facilities and work moving elsewhere."

"Look no further than Bellevue as Amazon shifts ground and heads to the other side of the lake"

mistral dear, do you see the cognitive disconnect in your post? On the one hand you are saying that Renton, Tukwila, and Everett are being sucked into the vortex of evil, evil, Seattle, which is causing them to leave the region, and then you cite Amazon's expansion - not relocation - into Bellevue (another suburb) as proof of that.

I always get a good giggle when the hand wringers cite companies opening offices across the lake, or up north or down south. It's almost like they don't understand that as long as the business stays in the region, it's good for the region. Lots of people work in one city and live in another. That's why we have all those ferries, those two floating bridges, and that big old highway cutting through Seattle.

20

Boeing has been burning through its cash reserves at a mind-boggling rate since March; somewhere between $2B (yes, BILLION) and $4.3B per month by most estimates, which means it will have none left by - optimistically - February or March. And with the 737 Max still grounded and likely to be so for some time, not to mention the bottom having completely fallen out of the commercial aviation market which in turn has reduced production of the 787 down to about 10 planes per month, things aren't going to get better any time soon.

So yeah, the heady days of stock buy-backs, cushy executive bonuses and early retirement payouts is definitely over, and The Lazy B is looking to cut costs where ever it can for the next couple of years. It's not even a matter of "maximizing shareholder value" anymore; it's simply a desperate Hail Mary just to remain alive in the hopes the industry manages to recover. But, there's probably going to be a COVID-22 or 23 in our future, and the planet is literally burning up before our eyes, so you know, good luck and all.

21

Anyone who didn't see the slow, self-inflicted death of Boeing when they moved to South Carolina simply wasn't thinking hard about the facts. Originally, Boeing was able to build amazing aerospace machinery, because it had amazing aerospace engineers- a workforce painstakingly developed over decades- and those engineers were the heart and soul of the company. The sad fact is that, mediocre egos from some business school got the keys to the company, saw that the engineers were the chief expense, and sold out the engineers.

Who would believe that setting up bargain factories in Trump County South Carolina, and outsourcing software to non-aeronautical coders in India, would produce a top flight aircraft? What surprises me, is that the business school bunch who oversaw the 737Max disaster, aren't held accountable for manslaughter, hundreds of times over.

Tearing apart an established workforce to save money and transfer those wages into corporate bonuses, may be the American Way, but in aerospace it can be tantamount to premeditated murder. A shameful business.

23

It’s Mrs. Vel-DuRay, mistral dear.

I was trying to help you understand how you promote conflicting ideas within your posts (no matter how you may think you changed the topic), and how you apparently have a poor grasp of the concept of regions. Were you by chance home-schooled, or did mama just drink her emotions?

25

Now don’t be bitter, mistral. Why don’t you start with a map of The Puget Sound Region, then move on to a map of Washington State, and then one of The United States? From then, the world is your oyster!

The librarian is your friend, dear. Try not to be hateful. I’m sure Mother never meant for you to be hateful. She was just overwhelmed.

27

Mistral dear, your attempt at backpedaling is charming. Promise me you’ll never lose that youthful naïveté.

29

This is no surprise as the Fords are notorious Nazis and Hitler supporters. Big and small business owners are revealed as facists because they would rather give employment to right-wing white supremacists than the people who built their businesses in the first place. These people have no loyalty to the US, its constitution, Bill of Rights, or any other legislation that might impose any sort of common sense, human rights, or respect for the community. They are merely loyal to greed as the 737 scandal shows the world.