Landing the 7E7 project would be an economic boon for any state. Over two dozen are competing for the project. As for my state, all I know is that Boeing asked Louisiana to bid for the project. Even if we don't land it, it's at least comforting to know that they wanted us in the running...quite a few states were not asked to make a proposal. Anyway, here's a brief rundown of some "potential" places in Louisiana for the 7E7 project.
Several La. cities could fly
At least 3 La. sites could woo Boeing
By CHRIS GAUTREAU
Advocate business writer
Louisiana has several potential sites it could tout to The Boeing Co. for a proposed jet-making plant.
A proposal was submitted to Boeing by the state -- along with ones from nearly two dozen other states -- by a June 20 deadline.
Gov. Mike Foster and other state officials have refused to release details about the proposal for the 7E7 "Dreamliner" jumbo-jet assembly plant.
At least three cities -- Shreveport, Alexandria and Lake Charles -- have been mentioned previously in published reports and by an LSU economist as the state's most likely candidates, while others, such as Baton Rouge, New Orleans and New Iberia, are also worth noting.
Shreveport has been mentioned specifically as a Louisiana site in reports from the Seattle Times in Washington, where Boeing has much of its manufacturing operations and is being offered up to $3 billion during a 20-year period in tax incentives alone to land the 7E7 plant.
Airports in Alexandria and Lake Charles have some of Louisiana's longest commercial runways, reportedly one of Boeing's key requirements.
Officials in all three cities, however, were unwilling to say much about the project, and only Shreveport confirmed it was being touted as a potential site.
Boeing says the 7E7 project could create up to 1,200 new jobs paying workers an average $65,000 annual salary. But specific details have been few and far between, since the company is keeping its official request for proposals under wraps.
The company published a broad set of criteria on its Internet site, including things such as "suitable runway provisions," access to ports and railways and an "available labor pool."
Some details of the Boeing plant nationally have made their way into the public domain as many of the two dozen competing states have touted their own bids.
An Indiana newspaper, for example, quoted an official there as saying Boeing wants a runway of at least 10,000 feet or one that can be extended to that length by 2005. Jeff Harris, a spokesman for that state's economic development agency, also said the company wants between 400 and 600 acres connected to the runway for building the manufacturing plant.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Chennault Industrial Air Park, a former military base in Lake Charles, has a 10,701-foot runway, one of the longest commercial airstrips in the state.
FAA information also indicates Alexandria's England Airpark, another former military base, has a 9,352-foot runway, while the longest at Shreveport Regional Airport is 8,351 feet.
All three sites have rail and port access, another crucial ingredient for Boeing, since parts of the 7E7 could be built and shipped in from several places around the world, including Italy and England.
Here's an overview of those and other areas of the state:
Published reports have indicated Shreveport has been pitched in part because of several ties to the aircraft industry.
The city was the longtime home for Rockwell International's federal contract for aircraft modification work. Rockwell sold its aircraft division to Boeing in 1996. In 2001, Boeing closed the Shreveport site, blaming declining work.
The city also was one of four cities in contention in the late-1980s for a McDonnell-Douglas plant that was never built.
Liz Swayne, a spokeswoman for Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower, confirmed the city has been mentioned as a site, but referred specific questions to the Foster administration, which so far has provided scant information in response to public records requests from The Advocate and again refused to provide information late Friday.
Arlena Acree, head of Shreveport's economic development arm, said the city is capable of large port shipments. Its General Motors plant receives metal-stamping equipment via the Red River, she said.
The Chennault facility also was home to a Boeing plant in the 1980s. When Boeing pulled out, Northrop Grumman took over the site for its federal contract work to retrofit military aircraft with high-tech radar equipment.
Chennault Executive Director George Heard would not discuss the 7E7 project and said Louisiana Economic Development had asked him not to comment publicly about it.
Jon Grafton, head of England Airpark, refused to say whether he had spoken about the project with state officials.
"We're always in touch with Economic Development on a number of different projects," Grafton said.
The park offers a variety of facilities. Among its aviation projects is Pride International's work in refurbishing commercial aircraft.
Still another possibility is New Iberia's Acadiana Regional Airport, which NASA recently chose as a regional training facility for small, high-speed aircraft.
Rock Lasserre, the airport's executive director could not be reached for comment.
Acadiana Regional has an 8,002-foot runway and nearby port and rail access.
For years, NASA has been using the facility as a layover location for astronauts traveling between Houston and Florida. It also is a designated site for emergency space shuttle landings.
Baton Rouge and New Orleans
Baton Rouge's longest runway is 7,002 feet, while the longest at Louis Armstrong International in New Orleans is 10,104 feet.
Baton Rouge Metro Airport was among the first agencies in the state to begin working on a 7E7 proposal.
State officials have cited requests by Boeing for confidentiality as their chief reason for refusing to release details of Louisiana's proposal.
A local published report quoted a Boeing spokeswoman as saying states would not be penalized if they speak publicly about their bids.
"We understand it's difficult, and there are politicians trying to make things happen," Yvonne Leach told the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. "It's not like we're going to penalize or drop people because of that."
Mary Hanson, another Seattle-based Boeing spokeswoman, refused comment Thursday about publicity from competing states.
Hanson said she was not familiar with the comments attributed to Leach.
Hanson repeated earlier statements that Boeing's priority was a "fair and rigorous" site search.
When asked specifically if states would be penalized for speaking publicly, Hanson said she would not answer.
Officials in many of the competing states have spoken at length about Boeing. Washington and Michigan in particular have held large press conferences detailing some of the components of their respective bids.
Marino viewed other states' offers with a dose of skepticism. Competitors often overstate proposals as part of the "game" and one-upmanship of winning big projects, he said.
"It gets dirty," Marino said of states and other groups who compete for large projects. "They try to scare you off. You don't want to put your business on the street because it becomes a bidding war."
One thing's for sure...it will be VERY interesting to see how this thing pans out.
Steve in N.O