Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh argued for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank April 27 during a brief speech celebrating the rollout of the first 787 Dreamliner from Boeing’s new final assembly facility in North Charleston, S.C.
The Ex-Im Bank provides loan guarantees that help foreign carriers purchase Boeing airplanes, including the first Air India 787s Boeing will deliver from the South Carolina plant. However, the U.S. airline industry, and Delta Air Lines in particular, argue that Ex-Im Bank support of foreign competitors hurts domestic carriers. The debate has shifted to the U.S. Congress, which must reauthorize the bank’s charter by May 31.
“Eighty-five percent of the airplanes that are going to come out of this factory are going to be sold overseas, and many of them are financed by the Ex-Im Bank in Washington, D.C.," Albaugh told a crowd gathered in front of the Boeing South Carolina final assembly building. "In fact, the first six airplanes we’re going to deliver to Air India are all financed by the Ex-Im Bank.” He thanked local politicians for their support—the South Carolina legislature passed a resolution in March backing the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization—and asked others in attendance to do the same. “The Ex-Im Bank gives us a level playing field to compete on around the world. I’ll tell you what it also does; it creates jobs right here in South Carolina,” he said to applause.
The placement of a 787 final assembly facility in South Carolina—a so-called “right to work” state that bars the practice of requiring union membership as a condition of employment—itself was controversial. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) threatened legal action against Boeing, alleging that the decision amounted to retaliation against its unionized work force in Washington state for past strikes. The NLRB dropped the lawsuit in December after Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers agreed to a new contract that called for the company to build the 737 Max in Washington state.
Boeing now employs 6,000 people at the South Carolina plant. “The reauthorization of Ex-Im will directly benefit South Carolina’s job creation efforts and manufacturing industries,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said after the state legislature passed its resolution. “It is imperative we continue to [strengthen] our ability to export goods made in South Carolina around the world.”