SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert met Thursday with Boeing executives about the possibility of moving production of the new 777X airplane to Utah, one of several states the company is reportedly considering.
"I am grateful for the partnership Utah has with Boeing, and I appreciate the interest in growing the existing Utah operation," Herbert said in a statement. "One of the country's best businesses expanding in one of the country's best places for business makes a lot of sense for many reasons."
A spokesman for the Governor's Office of Economic Development said senior Boeing officials sought the meeting to determine if Utah was interested in pursuing the work.
"The governor has indicated that Utah is interested in having further substantive discussions," spokesman Michael Sullivan said, describing Thursday's meeting as a preliminary discussion.
Sullivan said no future meetings have been set at this time. He said there are no projections about the number of jobs that could come to Utah or other economic impact.
Boeing already employs more than 800 workers in Utah and purchased an 850,000-square-foot building in West Jordan last January where horizontal tail components will be fabricated for the 787-9 aircraft.
The company also has a fabrication and assembly facility for the Dreamliners aircraft in Salt Lake City.
"We're excited Boeing's here. We're excited that they have continued to expand here with their facility that they have purchased in West Jordan," said Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
"The big message we want everyone to know is Utah is open for business," Eccles said. "We have the tools and we have the people, and we're ready to work with anybody interested in doing business here."
The company is talking about sending jobs to Utah, South Carolina, Texas or other states after union workers rejected a long-term contract.
"The company has started to actively pursue its options, including those within Boeing and interest we have received from outside," Sean McCormack, Boeing's vice president of communications, said in a statement.
McCormack said the company looked first at staying in Puget Sound, "but with the contact rejection by the union, we will now open up the process competitively and review all options for locating the 777X work."
The Washington Legislature recently extended nearly $9 billion in tax breaks for Boeing set to expire in 2024 through 2040 to try to keep production of the 777X in the Seattle area, Reuters reported.
Boeing is expected to spend at least $3 billion to produce the 777X, the latest version of the popular 777 airplane that will feature the largest wing ever built by the company, the Seattle Times reported.
The newspaper said a yes vote for the union contract would have protected an estimated 56,000 jobs for two decades by keeping production of the plane and the giant, carbon-fiber wing in Washington.
Sources told the Seattle Times that an internal Boeing analysis identified Salt Lake City as a top alternative manufacturing site, along with Long Beach, Calif., and Huntsville, Ala.
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