Politicians, Boeing employees open assembly building

Charleston Regional Business Journal
Matt Tomsic
June 13, 2011

At the count of five, more than a dozen gold scissors snipped a blue ribbon Friday, and the Boeing final assembly building’s colossal doors slid open.

As it opened, the North Charleston building’s air conditioning spilled outside, sending a blast of cold air over the hundreds of people who watched the ribbon-cutting ceremony yards away.

Politicians and Boeing executives joked about the heat and kept their remarks brief. Marco Cavazzoni, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina Final Assembly and Delivery, started the ribbon cutting with introductions of the speakers.

The company will begin final assembly of its first North Charleston 787 Dreamliner in a few short days, Cavazzoni said.

“Team,” he said to Boeing employees, many in blue and black collared shirts, “You rock, and welcome to your home.”

Jack Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, took the stage next.

“This is unprecedented,” Jones said. “Boeing has made a statement today.”

Jones said the company committed to assembling and delivering safe planes from a location other than Everett, Wash., Boeing’s other final assembly and delivery operation.

“There are a lot of good things that are going to happen when we open this building,” Jones said. “You only get to make history once.”

Local, state and federal politicians, along with Luther Cochrane, chairman of BE&K Building Group, which built the plant along with it’s 50-50 partner Turner Construction, followed Cavazzoni and Jones.

Gov. Nikki Haley; Sen. Lindsey Graham; Reps. Tim Scott, Jim Clyburn and Mick Mulvaney; state Sens. Glenn McConnell and Hugh Leatherman; state Speaker Bobby Harrell; Mayor Keith Summey and Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor all spoke.

Haley praised Boeing for contracting 91% of its work to South Carolina companies, and said the state is committed to the aerospace giant.

“And we can’t wait to see that mack-daddy plane come out of here,” Haley said.

Graham spoke after Haley and joked about the heat and construction work, which finished six months early and under budget.

“Obviously, none of you work for the federal government,” he said.

Graham said the state earned the right to build airplanes here, and the nation is watching South Carolina’s workforce.

“We’re going to be judged for decades by what you do here,” Graham said. “We’re in good hands, and we appreciate the hell out of y’all.”

The goal is to fly a 787 from the building, Graham said, and the company is one step closer to that goal.

Clyburn, Scott, Mulvaney, McConnell, Harrell, Leatherman and Summey also took their turns, telling jokes and thanking Boeing, lawmakers and the workforce.

“We may have lied about the humidity,” Summey said. “But the thing we did not lie about is our capable workforce.”

The ribbon cutting marked another milestone for the company and the Lowcountry, a milestone many described as a game changer. After the ceremony, Cavazzoni said he was proud and relieved the building is finished.

“I think we’re going to make history here,” Cavazzoni said. Boeing has finished its stadium and has trained its team. “Now, it’s a matter to get going and play the game.”

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