Menus Subscribe Search

Burgh Diaspora

boeing-everett

The Boeing factory in Everett, Washington. (Photo: Jeremy Elson/Wikimedia Commons)

Seattle Is Dying

• April 11, 2014 • 1:29 PM

The Boeing factory in Everett, Washington. (Photo: Jeremy Elson/Wikimedia Commons)

With a diversified employment base, the Emerald City will survive as Boeing starts looking for new talent outside of Washington State. But what does the search for cheap STEM talent say about the Innovation Economy?

Boeing long has been the economic anchor for the Puget Sound area in Washington State. Seattle’s employment base is much more diverse these days. But Boeing’s demand for STEM talent remains a centerpiece of workforce development:

Wildfire season starts on April 15, the same day Bob Drewel begins a one-year term as interim chancellor of the coming Washington State University North Puget Sound at Everett. …

… In July, WSU assumes responsibility of the University Center, an amalgamation of six public universities and one private college on the ECC campus. The Legislature’s intent many years ago was to create a mix of choices and opportunities for regional students closer to home.

The transition to WSU North Puget Sound was put in play by the Legislature in 2011. Last year, the school’s governing board approved spending $10 million for new office and classroom space on the Everett campus for WSU programs.

Seeing this come together is a bit of a marvel, even if WSU’s engineering expertise is a natural fit with the ongoing training and talent needs of Boeing.

Emphasis added. Keep in mind this link between WSU North Puget Sound’s engineering expertise and “ongoing training and talent needs of Boeing.” I’m about to drop a bomb, a doozy. “Boeing Moving 1,000 More Engineering Jobs to California“:

Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), reacted angrily on hearing the news of the work transfer as it was announced internally.

“SPEEA specifically warned Governor Inslee that his legislation was crafted with loopholes that would allow Boeing to take the $9 billion and outsource jobs anyway,” Goforth said in an e-mail. “Why doesn’t the governor call a special session to close the loopholes and save these jobs?”

The “$9 billion” refers to the tax break given Boeing by the Washington State government, ostensibly to make sure the company stays put. Furthermore, institutions of higher education bend over backwards (see $10 million investment in the Everett campus for WSU) to accommodate the needs of industry. Apparently, all was for naught. An explanation:

“We’re trying to leverage the expertise and experience of all the engineering workforce across the Boeing enterprise … to make sure we can ramp up and keep up with all the demands we’re facing in the next 20 years,” including the increased demand for new airplanes, said Doug Alder, spokesman for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. …

… “Southern California is attractive (to Boeing) because we can use the existing engineering workforce from the heritage McDonnell Douglas programs and tap into the cool, new talent coming from engineering schools in Southern California and really use those two together to come up with what we think will be a spectacular workforce,” Alder said.

Ouch. “Sorry, Washington State. Your talent isn’t cool enough for Boeing.”

Forget “cool” and focus on “new” talent. Echoing a theme for this series, Innovation Economy wages are too damn high:

The engineer who asked not to be identified said many in his group are convinced Boeing is trying to get rid of older, more expensive veterans in favor of hiring younger people in California.

He also noted that the company’s engineering facilities in Seal Beach and Long Beach are not unionized.

During contract talks with SPEEA in the fall of 2012, Delaney warned publicly that an expensive contract would lead to job transfers out of state.

Emphasis added. That should ring a bell for regular readers. In this post, I referenced an article in The Wall Street Journal:

“We joked about the older suburbanites being excluded from the new [business] model,” said Jon Scherf, age 42, a marketing professional who left Hillshire shortly before its December 2012 move to downtown Chicago. “They would’ve been happy to have me but they’re also happy to bring in new blood.”

The joke isn’t funny, at least to Boeing engineers based in Washington. “Cool talent” that prefers a downtown working address is code for “cheaper” STEM labor. The Innovation Economy, not Seattle, is what’s really dying.

Jim Russell
Jim Russell is a geographer studying the relationship between migration and economic development.

More From Jim Russell

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

August 1 • 4:00 PM

The Gaps in Federal Law That Are Making It Easy for Lenders to Sue Soldiers

Courts are required to appoint attorneys for service members if they are sued and can’t appear. But the law says little about what those lawyers must do. Some companies have taken advantage.


August 1 • 2:22 PM

Warmer Parenting Makes Antisocial Toddlers More Empathetic

Loving care may be the best antidote to callous behavior in young children.


August 1 • 2:00 PM

The Federal Health Insurance Exchange Remains Surprisingly Active

New federal data, obtained by ProPublica under the Freedom of Information Act, shows nearly one million insurance transactions since mid-April.



August 1 • 6:00 AM

The Idea of Racial Hierarchy Remains Entrenched in Americans’ Psyches

New research finds white faces are most closely associated with positive thoughts and feelings.


August 1 • 4:00 AM

How and Why Does the Social Become Biological?

To get closer to an answer, it’s helpful to look at two things we’ve taught ourselves over time: reading and math.



July 31 • 4:00 PM

Thank You for Your Service: How One Company Sues Soldiers Worldwide

With stores near military bases across the country, the retailer USA Discounters offers easy credit to service members. But when those loans go bad, the company uses the local courts near its Virginia headquarters to file suits by the thousands.


July 31 • 2:00 PM

A New York State of Fracking

Court cases. A governor’s moratorium. Pending health study. A quick guide to the state of fracking in New York.


July 31 • 11:17 AM

How California Could Power Itself Using Nothing but Renewables

We don’t need fossil fuels.


July 31 • 8:00 AM

Should Athletes Train Their Memories?

Sure, but it probably won’t help.


July 31 • 6:00 AM

Universal Basic Income: Something We Can All Agree on?

According to Almaz Zelleke, it’s not a crazy thought.


July 31 • 4:00 AM

Medical Dramas Produce Misinformed, Fatalistic Viewers

New research suggests TV doctor dramas leave viewers with skewed impressions of important health-related topics.


July 30 • 4:00 PM

Still the World’s Top Military Spender

Although declining in real terms, the United States’ military budget remains substantial and a huge drain on our public resources.



July 30 • 2:04 PM

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly 10 times more often than was the case in the 1960s.


July 30 • 2:00 PM

The (Mostly Awful) Things You Learn After Investigating Unpaid Internships for a Year

Though the intern economy remains opaque, dialogue about the role of interns in the labor force—and protections they deserve—is beginning to take shape.


July 30 • 12:00 PM

Why Coffee Shortages Won’t Change the Price of Your Frappuccino

You’re so loyal to Starbucks—and the company knows it—that your daily serving of caffeine is already marked up beyond the reach of any fluctuations in supply.



July 30 • 10:00 AM

Having Difficult Conversations With Your Children

Why it’s necessary, and how to do it.


July 30 • 8:00 AM

How to Make a Convincing Sci-Fi Movie on a Tight Budget

Coherence is a good movie, and its initial shoot cost about the same amount of money as a used Prius.


July 30 • 6:00 AM

Are You Really as Happy as You Say You Are?

Researchers find a universal positivity bias in the way we talk, tweet, and write.


July 30 • 4:00 AM

The Declining Wage Gap for Gay Men

New research finds gay men in America are rapidly catching up with straight married men in terms of wages.


July 30 • 2:00 AM

LeBron James Migration: Big Chef Seeking Small Pond

The King’s return to Cleveland is a symbol for the dramatic shift in domestic as well as international migration.


July 29 • 4:00 PM

Are Children Seeking Refuge Turning More Americans Against Undocumented Immigrants?

A look at Pew Research Center survey data collected in February and July of this year.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Warmer Parenting Makes Antisocial Toddlers More Empathetic

Loving care may be the best antidote to callous behavior in young children.

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly 10 times more often than was the case in the 1960s.

America’s Streams Are Awash With Pesticides Banned in Europe

You may have never heard of clothianidin, but it's probably in your local river.

How Textbooks Have Changed the Face of War

War is more personal, less glorious, and more hellish in modern textbooks than in the past. But there’s still room for improvement.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.