The dwindling time

An Everett lawmaker embarked Wednesday on establishing a campus for teaching and training aerospace workers, an undertaking that could play a vital role in sustaining Boeing's presence in the state.

While bachelor's degrees might be offered eventually, the most immediate value of such an institute is in showing the state's commitment to keeping Boeing and the aerospace industry vibrant.The machining center introduced legislation creating the Washington Institute of Aerospace Technology and Manufacturing Studies to be located somewhere in Snohomish County. As envisioned, it would be a research and education center with programs that complement existing courses and job training offered at community colleges in Everett and Edmonds. It also would serve as a neutral ground where business and labor leaders can hash out differences.

"There are a lot of interests that come together in this bill," Sells said. "It definitely would give the governor something to show Boeing what we're willing to do."Boeing's future plans are unknown. Lawmakers say they think the company is committed to adding a second line of production for the 787 aircraft. The question is will it be in Washington or another state.

North Carolina, which funneled $11 million into aerospace education and training, put $7 million into its Advanced Machining Center — a key component in landing a new Spirit AeroSystems plant there. West Virginia is building two advanced technology training centers with $30 million in state funds. Alabama, which built an Aerospace Training Center in 1999, plans to sink up to $15 million into a robotics training facility.

Linda Lanham with the Aerospace Futures Alliance is among those pushing for a central aerospace training facility funded with state and federal dollars. She's investigated a 26-acre site adjacent to Edmonds Community College.

On Wednesday, Lanham applauded Sells' efforts.

Sells has criticized the company for all but threatening to leave the state if certain legislative changes aren't made."It's a reality and we have to deal with it," Sells said of Boeing's potential departure."Whether I like what an employer did around one particular bill, this legislation is about people's jobs. It's about strengthening not just Boeing but all the aerospace suppliers," he said.One area in which Washington trails other states is in terms of centralized aerospace training centers. The state built its Employment Resource Center in Everett following the 2003 agreement to build the Dreamliner. But that facility is dedicated to 787 training only for its first five years.

But Lanham wants to see a discussion about the details of the training center. She emphasized her hopes of seeing a center that filters training and educational efforts to other sites statewide — either over the Internet or through community colleges.

Given the dwindling time remaining in the legislative session, Sells will need help from House leadership to advance the proposal. If it is ruled a budget-related bill, it can be considered. Otherwise, seeds for the project could be planted with language in the capital budget.

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