The number of jobs at the McDonnell Douglas Corp. plant in Salt Lake City could jump to 2,000 - double the current projected work force - if the state is successful in convincing the aerospace company to manufacture commercial airplane parts there, Gov. Norm Bangerter said Friday.
On Thursday, Bangerter traveled to the aircraft division headquarters of McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, Calif. with Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Jake Garn, both R-Utah, and millionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman to meet with company officials about expanding the Salt Lake plant's operations.The governor said during a Friday morning press conference on an unrelated topic that the daylong trip confirmed that McDonnell Douglas already plans to increase the number of jobs at the plant from 100 to 1,000 within two or three years.
Beyond that, Bangerter said, the company is considering manufacturing parts for the MD-80 commercial passenger airplane at the Salt Lake plant. The governor said company officials realize they could save money if they did not have to ship parts manufactured elsewhere to Salt Lake city for assembly.
Bangerter said another Utah delegation will be sent to meet with McDonnell Douglas officials in Southern California to discuss the details of an expanded operation in Salt Lake City.
Dave Adams, director of the state Community and Economic Development Department, said the Salt Lake plant assembles floor sections for the passenger airplanes.
Adams said the plant is expected to begin receiving other airplane sections for assembly as specially trained workers graduate from local technical schools at a rate of 60 every six weeks.
The parts that are assembled at the Salt Lake plant are made in other states, primarily in the Midwest, Adams said. The delegation heading to Long Beach sometime this summer will explain how McDonnell Douglas can save money by making those parts at the Salt Lake plant.
A group of Utah manufacturers has also been invited to meet with McDonnell Douglas officials to discuss the sale of Utah-made parts such as airplane bolts to all of the company's aircraft manufacturing plants, Adams said.
Adams denied reports that McDonnell Douglas is considering locating a new plant for its C-17 military aircraft in Ogden. He said the company already has plant space set aside in Long Beach for the controversial aircraft only recently approved by Congress.
The Salt Lake plant had originally been designed to produce the C-17, which is not scheduled to go into use for another two years. But McDonnell Douglas officials decided instead to use it for the MD-80.
Bangerter took the opportunity Friday to remind reporters that Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, criticized the aircraft as a "boondoggle." The governor said he hoped the entire Congressional delegation would be able to support the non-military MD-80.