Boeing told its employees this week that it plans to add some 1,200 new workers at its Renton narrow-body aircraft plant and build a new addition to the assembly line.
Those new workers will help Boeing raise its 737 production rate to 38 a month by 2013. The company now makes 31.5 737 commercial jets a month in Renton in addition to a militarized version of the twin-engine jet for the Navy and foreign armed forces.
Boeing informally has discussed raising Renton’s production to 44 737s a month. The 737 is the biggest selling jetliner in history. Boeing has received 8,886 orders for the plane through April.
The news of more staff hires and physical additions is a a relief for both the Renton community and Boeing workers who a few years ago feared Boeing would close the plant and mover production elsewhere.
The Renton Boeing plant was built in World War II to build B-29 bombers. During its lifetime, the plant has assembled Boeing 707s, 727s, 757s and 737s and Navy P-8A subhunting aircraft.
After the 9-11, 2011 terrorist attacks, Boeing layed off 30,000 workers company wide and sold off acres of land and buildings at its Renton site. Local officials commissioned studies of how the lakefront land adjacent to the Renton Municipal Airport could be repurposed as the site for mixed use development.
But Boeing last year signed a 20-year lease with the airport with a 10-year extension option.
As 737 orders blossomed, Boeing made plans to pump up production.
The company says it will build a 75,000-square-foot addition to one assembly hall and remodel an old paint hangar to handle the increased volume of production at the plant.
With at least a five-year production backlog of existing orders and more being ordered each month, Boeing now seems likely to stay in Renton at least another decade.
The site’s longer-term future will depend on where the company decides to build the successor to the 737. That plane, not yet formally announced, is likely to debut in 2019 or 2020. If Boeing follows past practice, the company is likely to hold a competition to determine where to build that plane.
Such a competition is likely to elicit multi-million dollar incentive offers from states eager to land a Boeing plant. Boeing is building its first non-Washington assembly line for its 787 Dreamliner in Charleston, S.C.