EVERETT, Wash. - Despite the harsh reality that hundreds of Boeing employees will likely lose their jobs over the company’s decision to relocate 787 Dreamliner production, some in the area are expressing optimism that the region as a whole is better prepared to weather the storm.
Boeing layoffs in the past have rippled across the entire region’s economy, affecting everything from housing to store sales.
EVERETT, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: The Boeing Airplanes factory where several models of its commercial aircraft, including the 787 Dreamliner, are produced is pictured on September 30, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
It’s something Bob Cuff has seen firsthand. He has worked for another Pacific Northwest staple, Dunn Lumber, for 32 years. The store he works at in Everett is just a few miles from Boeing’s plant.
“I think that people rely on Boeing to be here and all the people that work at Boeing are spending money here and everywhere else, so if Boeing went away completely I think that would hurt a lot,” Cuff said.
Boeing will still have a big presence in Everett even after the 787 departure, but the company has struggled this year over the impacts of the pandemic, already resulting in local layoffs. Still, Cuff said the company’s troubles have not yet cut into Dunn Lumber’s profits.
“You think it’s going to drop but it doesn’t and people are still coming in so I don’t think it’s affecting the spending,” Cuff said.
In fact, he said sales are at record levels, a sign that it’s a different time. Cuff, who was raised in Kirkland, recalled the infamous billboard in 1971 that read, “Will the last person leaving Seattle - turn out the lights.” The sentiment was sparked by Boeing layoffs that devastated the region.
“When they left, it was horrible, there was empty houses everywhere and values dropped and I don’t think that would ever happen anymore because it’s way more diverse for business around here,” Cuff said.
And like Boeing, the lumber industry has also weathered ups and downs, and the fifth-generation family company Cuff works for prevailed.
“We went through that horrible (housing) crash,” he said. “Business dropped horribly…and we made it all the way through that and reinvented ourselves.”
Ever the optimist, he said Boeing will too. Despite the news of the 787, the Everett plant and its workers still have the 747, 767 and 777 to contend with.
While the company announced the consolidation of the 787 production to South Carolina today, they said the transition will not be complete until mid-2021. The company has not announced how many jobs are at risk at the Everett facility.