The Franklin County economy and work force could see a significant benefit if a Boeing 777X jet plant opens in the St. Louis region.
The state Legislature went into a special session Monday to debate financial incentives that may be offered to Boeing in an attempt to draw the plant to Missouri.
If a new Boeing plant opened in the St. Louis area, some Franklin County residents would likely commute for the high-paying jobs, State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said.
Local industries could receive a large boost from manufacturing parts for the Boeing plant, Hinson said. Statewide, the economic impact could be in the billions of dollars, he added.
Missouri will face tough competition from other states that are going to offer their own incentive packages to lure the jet plant, State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said.
South Carolina, Utah and California are also in the running for the plant, Hinson said.
Legislators have about a week to pass an incentive package as Boeing needs Missouri’s proposal by Dec. 10.
The plant would bring thousands of jobs to Missouri and secure the state as an advanced aerospace hub, according to Nixon.
Schatz is “somewhat familiar” with industries in Washington, such as Valent Aerostructure, Tradco and tool and die shops, that could also receive a boost in business if the plant came to the St. Louis area.
Likewise, there could also be an expansion of East Central College job training programs, Schatz noted.
Part of the governor’s plan is to use community colleges for training so workers have the skills when production would start around 2017, Hinson said.
State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, said he is keeping an open mind about the governor’s proposed incentive package,
Curtman agreed that the Boeing plant could help Washington industries and the region as a whole. He planned on looking into the impact that it would create on the ECC job training program.
State Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
A news release on the governor’s website states that Nixon has asked the Legislature, “to pass legislation adding additional capacity of up to $150 million annually for large-scale aerospace projects under four of Missouri’s existing economic development programs: Missouri Works, Missouri Works Training, Missouri BUILD, and the Real Property Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act.”
Cost Versus Benefits
Making sure that the cost of an incentive package does not outweigh the benefits is key to the debate, Curtman said. There will have to be number crunching done to make sure this would not happen in the case of Boeing, he added.
Whenever subsidies are offered, some people get jobs, but others fall in the gaps that the subsidy creates, Curtman said.
The fact that Missouri needs to offer incentives to attract Boeing is a sign that the state’s tax policies need work, Curtman said. Moreover, he said he would like to offer tax relief to small businesses, not just large corporations.
The governor recently vetoed a tax cut bill that would have helped small businesses and families but now wants to offer incentives to Boeing, Curtman noted.
Schatz agreed that the tax cut the governor vetoed was an effort to draw business to the state.
The governor vetoed that tax cut because he said it would have drained revenue from critical state services.
The fact that Missouri is not a right-to-work state could hurt its chances of getting the Boeing plant, Curtman said.
Right-to-work states do not require employees to pay union dues to be employed in certain places.
Labor disputes in Washington state have already caused the company to look at other states, Curtman noted. Boeing may just want to bypass labor disputes and move to South Carolina, which is a right-to-work state, Curtman added.
But Hinson said Missouri’s non right-to-work status could help its chances of getting the plant. When Boeing was looking to expand in South Carolina it ran into a lot of push back from the National Labor Relations Board and does not want to go through that again, Hinson said.
Schatz, who opposes forced unionization, said it is unclear how much the right-to-work issue will factor into Boeing’s decision of where to locate.
St. Louis also has qualified aerospace machinists who want Boeing to come here so they can get back to work, Hinson said.
Missouri’s central geographic location could be an advantage, Schatz said, adding that the state also has “good, hard-working, commonsense” people.