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Rockford Reaches Final Five For Boeing 777X

Boeing's new 777X program will develop two new versions of the proven wide body aircraft. Both will incorporate new carbon fiber polymer construction; one will be stretched to carry at least 400 passengers, the other will have a range of almost 10,000 nautical miles. When challenges arose at its Seattle production facility, Boeing began a search for a new site, examining 54 sites in 22 states.

Rockford offered a 400 acre site at Chicago Rockford International Airport and was one of the five finalists for the new plant.

This was no surprise to observers familiar with the Rockford Region's aerospace sector. Chicago Rockford International Airport is a world class facility with a 10,000 foot runway and CAT II and III instrumentation landing system. The city is home to 90 aerospace manufacturers (including 11 tier one suppliers) with approximately 200 located within a 150 mile radius. Rockford is also America's sixth largest center of aerospace manufacturing employment concentration with 6,500 workers in the trade, and has taken specific steps to increase the availability of aerospace-related training. Eric Voyles, Vice President of National Business Development at RAEDC noted that 800 companies which serve Boeing are located in Illinois and Wisconsin. “The fact is,” Voyles told the Chicago tribune, “their supply chain is here.”

These strengths allowed Rockford to make the finals without having to offer financial incentives.

“It never got to a dollars-and-cents discussion with them," said Illinois Commerce Department spokesman Dave Roeder. "This was not an incentive-led offer. We didn't have to throw a bunch of money on the table to be a finalist."

Though Boeing has decided to build the 777X at their Seattle facility after all, Boeing is still making supply chain decisions which could benefit Rockford. Boeing is already taking a closer look at our regional supply chain. Congressman Adam Kinzinger hosted a Boeing Supplier Symposium on March 10, 2014 for Rockford Region companies interested in becoming a supplier for the aerospace manufacturer.  Eighteen companies participated in individual meetings with Boeing representatives, after hearing a presentation about how to become a supplier to the company.

"The Rockford Region has an incredibly diverse set of aerospace suppliers and yesterday's event demonstrated to Boeing how these companies can help improve Boeing's competitiveness," stated Congressman Kinzinger.

Overall, Rockford Region economic development officials are very pleased with the outcomes of these two visits. “I had some of the top aerospace management in the world in my community, and their eyes were opened," Voyles said. "It says we're heading down the right path."

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