(photo credit: Jetstar Airways)
“Most of American life consists of driving somewhere and then returning home, wondering why the hell you went.”
Boeing can thank American novelist and poet, John Updike for those words of wisdom.
The aerospace giant recently announce it will be moving more engineering work out of the Puget Sound area of Washington State to Southern California, reversing a long trend of such jobs leaving the Los Angeles area.
“It’s gratifying to see a company like Boeing expanding on its existing presence in Southern California,” said Kish Rajan, Director of GO-Biz, “a place where they’ve been a part of the local aerospace blueprint for many years.”
In a statement, Boeing said it has decided to “place a majority” of its engineering work for commercial aircraft modifications and freighter conversions in Long Beach.
It is unclear still how many jobs will be moved, however it could be as many as 300.
“This announcement is part of a larger Boeing Commercial Airplanes strategy to locate engineering functions in geographically diverse engineering design centers, including Southern California,” said Boeing spokesman, Jim Condelles.
According to the company, there are about 1,200 employees in the commercial aircraft business divided between Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach. The good news is that number could grow over time.
That is music to our ears, especially since aerospace jobs appeared to be moving on and out of California. In 1990, Los Angeles County had about 130,000 aerospace jobs. By 2012, that number had dropped to 38,400.
“This is great news,” said Doug Henton, Chairman & CEO, Collaborative Economics and Advancing Manufacturing Action Team Leader for the California Economic Summit. “Boeing is a large company but it needs suppliers, particularly the electronic industry. So part of that is the infrastructure that exists in Southern California. It’s one of the reasons I think Boeing can expand here. So it’s not just Boeing but smaller companies and sub-contractors that make that possible.”
“Second, it’s the training, the technology of workforce and a number of the universities and even community colleges have done a lot in the area of training folks for the aerospace industry,” said Henton.
Rajan agrees with that sentiment.
“This move by Boeing, as well as their recently announced Center of Excellence, is driven by the availability of an amazing engineering workforce in Southern California – one we take great pride in.”
Right across the street from Boeing’s new Long Beach engineering design center is Long Beach City College, one of those sources of nearby engineering talent. The school has partnered with the Boeing to create a skill-based curriculum to expand the college’s engineering technology program.
“The goal is to increase the number of students eligible for career path opportunities at Boeing and other aerospace firms, provide qualified engineering technicians to support the new design center effort and increase student transfer rates to Cal State Long Beach and other four year engineering degree programs,” said Lou Anne Bynum, Executive Vice President of College Advancement and Economic Development.
Shifting more jobs to the L.A. region means more jobs at smaller companies because of the manufacturing sector’s multiplier effect. A win-win situation for California.
“The ecosystem is the underlying factor-it’s the smaller companies that support aerospace industry is very important and we want to maintain that mixture of jobs here. It’s different kinds of jobs. It continues to be electronics, systems. It’s what we’ve always been good at and aerospace companies realize,” said Henton.
The Golden State appears to be on a roll. The latest jobs numbers have showed growth in STEM field employment. With the Boeing news, it’s been a good few weeks for well-paying jobs in California.
But the state needs to build in some long-term support for these manufacturing and STEM jobs. The California Economic Summit has formed two Action Teams to tackle these issues, Advancing Manufacturing and Workforce. Both will address the need for the manufacturing industry and schools to align their efforts to find high-skill talent. They are just two initiatives the Summit is working on to bolster the creation of solid, long-term success for the California economy.