Renton braces for 737 MAX production shutdown

RENTON, Wash. –  In a major announcement, Boeing announced plans to temporarily halt production of its 737 MAX aircraft early next year.

Right now, the company doesn’t plan to furlough or lay off employees. Instead many will be reassigned to other jobs across Puget Sound.

The news has some in Renton reeling where the 737 MAX is made. While the decision also impacts Boeing’s supply chain, it could also hurt people beyond the aerospace industry.

“We are the only restaurant in this area,” said Kiet Lei.

Lei and his family own a sandwich shop just south of the Boeing plant where the MAX is produced.

Many of Lei’s customers, he says, leave the factory floor and visit him for lunch.

“For me it’s kind of scary because 80% of my business is from Boeing,” he said.

In a statement released late Monday afternoon, Boeing announced it would temporarily suspend 737 MAX production in January while it awaits FAA certification. The statement also said the company would use the time to move more than 400 aircraft waiting for delivery.

“It would have impact across the country quite frankly,” said aviation industry analyst Scott Hamilton from Leeham Company.

Hamilton says while it is good news Boeing does not plan on layoffs, the suspension could have impacts with other businesses in the supply chain.

“Even plastic fasteners, you’ve got a supplier down in Tacoma,” said Hamilton. “He’d be hit."

Renton’s mayor also weighed in, telling Q13 News in a statement that reads in part:

“We are hopeful that any suspension of production would be for a limited time to minimize any negative impact to local businesses.”

Nearly 12,000 work at Boeing’s Renton plant. While layoffs for now are off the table, reassignment won’t always be easy.

“If you live in Auburn and all of the sudden you have to go to Everett it’s going to be a real pain to get up there,” said Hamilton. “But that’s better than being out of work.”

Meanwhile, Lei will continue striving to keep his restaurant afloat even when most of his customers will soon be working far from his store front.

“Try to stay and survive,” said Lei. “We only have two employees and do anything to save money and keep running.”

In the company’s statement, Boeing says it believes suspending production in January is the least disruptive option.e

It goes on to say Boeing does not yet know when both American and international regulators will certify the MAX to fly.