Boeing, State and Pierce County enjoy successful return to Farnborough
Optimism was in the air at this year’s Farnborough International Airshow, July 18-22.
The epic aviation event in southeast England, held for the first time since 2018, proved that the aerospace industry is picking up speed and may be more expansive than ever. Around 80,000 industry professionals and 1,500 exhibitors from around the globe attended the event, which boasted more than 1 million square feet of exhibition space.
The EDB and other Pierce County representatives joined their Washington State partners to meet with industry leaders, connect with new and existing contacts, and spotlight the region’s assets and advantages to firms interested in relocating or expanding operations.
Pierce County delegates included Bruce Kendall, EDB President and CEO; Dave Morell, Pierce County Council; Betty Capestany, Pierce County Economic Development Director; and Lisa Goodman, Executive Team, The Benaroya Company. Sarah Bonds, EDB Vice President of Business Recruitment, coordinated event logistics from the EDB’s Tacoma offices.
Here are just some of the highlights from the event:
- Big step forward for Boeing. The aerospace giant fared well at Farnborough, adding orders for 237 aircraft with options for 41 additional jetliners. That includes a massive order from Delta for 100 MAX 10s, with the option to purchase 30 more. Qatar ordered 25 single-aisle 737 MAX 10s.
“Boeing really put their best foot forward and proved that they are getting back to what they do – build and deliver world-class aircraft,” Dave Morell said. “The boost for Boeing means supply chain trickle-down and big benefits for Pierce County’s aerospace manufacturers.”
The week wasn’t only about orders. Like other companies leaning in to decarbonization aviation, Boeing spotlighted new technology opportunities on the horizon, from biofuels to electric aircraft and commercial space.
- Team nets leads. The Pierce County delegation met with 36 companies, including Pierce County-based Toray Composite Materials America, Inc., Boeing, General Plastics, GKN Aerospace and Sekisui Aerospace, as well as companies from the UK, Germany and Belgium. The team brought home 17 hot/warm leads to follow up on in the coming months.
“Farnborough was a great way to reconnect and pave the way for new relationships in the industry,” Bruce Kendall said. “While an aerospace comeback isn’t complete, the event was a strong indicator that things are improving.”
- Hot tech on display. Electronic vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft were a big draw at Farnborough, thanks to major advances in electric propulsion and a growing need for new vehicles for urban air mobility. UK-based Vertical Aerospace displayed a full-scale mockup of its VX4 air taxi, and several other international eVTOL developers were highly visible. Flight altitude for the vehicles is between 1,000 and 2,000 feet.
Staffing a sore point
The Washington State delegation found staffing challenges were top of mind among Farnborough attendees and exhibitors. Boeing alone has about 5,000 open positions in the Puget Sound region.
“Sourcing skilled workers is a challenge globally, not just in Pierce County and Washington state,” said Chris Green, Washington State Department of Commerce Assistant Director of Economic Development and Competitiveness and a former EDB staffer. “Nearly every company I talked with spoke to the challenges of energizing the younger generation to take on manufacturing jobs.”
To deal with those challenges, companies are getting creative to attract talent. For example, Boeing recently started using a roving food truck to take its message to festivals and street fairs. The unconventional strategy is yielding results for the aerospace giant.
How hot was it? The UK experienced historically high temperatures during the Farnborough International Air Show. The scorching heat not only challenged event attendees, but it wreaked havoc on the country’s transportation system and nearly derailed the Pierce County delegation’s onward travel. As the team returned to London following the airshow, the steel rails became too hot for safe travel … prompting Team Pierce County to hail a cab for the hourlong trip to London.