EVERETT — He touched down with the pride of the past.
Then he soared with the Boeing Company’s faith for the future.
In the first visit by a president to the Puget Sound in almost two decades, President Barack Obama toured Boeing’s aircraft assembly plant in Everett to push his plan for investments in American manufacturing and jobs and point to the 787 Dreamliner as a symbol of such success.
Standing at the end of the assembly line in the 4026 Building, with a Dreamliner built for United Airlines to his right and two more 787s behind him, Obama recalled his trip to Washington state aboard Air Force One, built in Everett 25 years ago.
“It’s flying smooth,” Obama said, adding that he met a Boeing worker during an earlier tour who helped build the airplane and thanked him for a job well-done.
“But as wonderful as it is to fly Air Force One — and it is wonderful — it’s hard not to be amazed by the Dreamliner,” he said.
With a blue banner hanging behind him reading “An America Built To Last,” Obama touted the benefits of the Dreamliner to a crowd of more than 1,000 airplane workers, Democratic Party members and other dignitaries.
“This is the first commercial airplane to be made with 50 percent composite materials. It’s lighter, it’s faster, it’s more fuel-efficient than any airplane in its class. And it looks cool,” Obama said.
“The Dreamliner is the plane of the future. And by building it here, Boeing is taking advantage of a huge opportunity that exists right now to bring more jobs and manufacturing back to the United States of America,” he said.
The president’s praise found an appreciative audience. And as Boeing goes, so goes Island County. With more than 1,000 of its employees calling home on the island side of the water, Boeing is the largest private employer in Island County.
The number of Boeing employees in the county rose from 975 to 1,081 in the past year, according to the Island County Economic Development Council, and the airplane manufacturer has a workforce much larger than the county’s second largest private employer, Walmart, which has 210.
During the presidential visit on Friday, Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, pointed to the jobs that the 787 Dreamliner and the company’s other airplanes would create in Everett and beyond.
Albaugh said production will be increased by 40 percent over the next three years.
“Every airplane that we sell means jobs here. Here at the Boeing Co. we hired 13,000 new employees just in the last year. And our supply chain supports 250,000 jobs in the United States,” he said.
Albaugh also noted that Boeing delivered two brand-new airplanes last year; the 787 Dreamliner and 747-8, the “Queen of the Skies.”
“While we were at it, we delivered 477 total airplanes and we took orders for 805 more,” Albaugh said.
“Every airplane that we sell means jobs here. Here at the Boeing Co. we hired 13,000 new employees just in the last year. And our supply chain supports 250,000 jobs in the United States.”
Another highlight, he said, was the selection of Boeing to build the next Air Force refueling tanker, a project that will mean work at the Everett plant for decades to come.
“I think the president was probably pretty happy we won it, too, because we kept 40,000 jobs here in the United States,” Albaugh said. “I don’t know about you, but I didn’t like the idea of the U.S. Air Force flying around in French airplanes.”
Albaugh also said production will be increased by 40 percent over the next three years.
“We’re building tomorrow’s airplanes today,” he said. “That’s something the competition can’t say.”
With the local unemployment rate at 8.8 percent, the outlook was welcome news.
Even so, Obama detailed present problems on the ground that the middle class has endured for years. The economy. Unemployment. Outsourcing.
“A lot of communities that used to rely on a lot of factory jobs, they saw those shrink. They saw those get shipped off overseas. Too many factories, where people thought they’d retire, left home,” Obama said. “Too many jobs that provided a steady, stable life, a middle-class life for people, got shipped overseas.”
“The hard truth is, a lot of those jobs aren’t going to come back,” the president added. “And in a global economy, some companies are always going to find it more profitable to pick up and do business in other parts of the world. That’s just the nature of a global economy.
“But that does not mean that we’ve got to just sit there and settle for a lesser future,” Obama added.
Obama said the economic tide is turning, however, and he sounded a familiar refrain from other campaign stops.
“Over the last 23 months, businesses have created 3.7 million new jobs, and American manufacturers are hiring for the first time since 1990,” Obama said.
“Boeing is an example of that. But to keep it going, the last thing we can afford to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us into this mess in the first place. We can’t go backwards. We can’t go back to an economy that was weakened by outsourcing and bad debt and phony financial profits.”
Obama trumpeted proposed changes to the tax code, and tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers.
“No American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas,” he said. “My attitude is every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. You should not have an advantage by building a plant over there, over somebody who’s investing here and hiring American workers.
“And every penny of that minimum tax should go towards lowering taxes for companies like Boeing that choose to stay and hire here in the United States.
“It is time to stop rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas. Reward companies that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America,” Obama said.
Obama’s speech — which was followed by campaign stops on Seattle’s Eastside — was well-received by Boeing workers in Everett.
“I was very enthused about what he talked about, keeping more jobs here, trying to get the job base back in this country so that we can have more tax revenue,” said Vennie Murphy, a Boeing machinist.
“He’s trying to get the jobs back into this country,” added George Braun, also a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751.
“Like he was saying, all the work that’s done here at Boeing creates jobs for subcontractors in this country. And that’s where we want to keep these jobs — in this country,” Braun said.