Boeing to invest $1b in expanding Charleston facility

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Boeing will invest more than $1 billion in expanding its facilities at Charleston International airport in South Carolina.

The investment will total about $1.25 billion with the state contributing another $120 million in economic development incentives, as part of a bill that was introduced to the South Carolina state senate by senator Hugh Leatherman today.

Chicago-based Boeing will hire an additional 2,000 employees by 2020 as part of the expansion, it says. It employs more than 6,100 at the plant currently.

The airframer attributes the expansion at North Charleston to increasing global demand for aircraft, citing record numbers of orders for aircraft and production levels on both its 737 and 777 assembly lines in Washington state.

Boeing assembles the 787 at its existing plant in North Charleston and is in the process of expanding its aft fabrication and paint facility for the type there. It plans to build an operations centre for the global fleet of 787s and an IT centre of excellence in the state, as well.

The airframer is in the process of acquiring an additional 129.5ha (320 acres) from airport operator Charleston County Aviation Authority for future expansion, it says.

The incentives come little more than a month after Boeing disclosed that it planned to cut "hundreds" of contract workers at the Charleston facility. The airframer employed about 1,600 contract labourers at the plant as of June 2012, based on documents acquired by Flightglobal.

Boeing has not disclosed the functions of the new employees, however, senator Leatherman says that the hires will include additional engineers, information technology specialists and production staff, according to reports.

Ryan Johnson, public information officer for the city of North Charleston, says that the incentives are about economic growth for the regional economy and not a response to the planned reductions in contract employees at Boeing's facility.

"Any line of production that Boeing decides to bring here we feel we are well equipped for and we're happy to have it," he says, on whether the region hopes that the airframer will expand production beyond just the 787.

Boeing has invested more than $1 billion in South Carolina since 2009, and received a similar incentive package including tax exemptions from the state at the time.

Airbus broke ground on a new final assembly line for its A320 family of aircraft in Mobile, Alabama, on 8 April.