Boeing tanker deal crucial to small businesses

Source: King 5 News

TACOMA, Wash. - The Air Force says it won't award that massive $35 billion air-tanker contract until November. It's another delay in what's become a match-up pitting Boeing against European rival EADS.

"We work on every single plane Boeing makes, said Precision Machine Works CEO David Baublits.

And he makes clear here what's at stake, not just at Boeing, but everyone down the assembly line.

"Within our supply base there's thousands of employees that will be affected by the tanker decision," he said.

It's why eight companies, each with a vested interest in the 767 tanker bid, are meeting with Boeing and Senator Maria Cantwell.

"It's an opportunity to have a fair and competitive process," said Cantwell.

Optimism is high.

"Boeing is already putting that capacity in place, and we as owners need to do the same, we need to be ready for when that contract is signed," said Mark Neumeier, VP of Neumeier Engineering.

But competition is high too, mainly from EADS, the European consortium planning to put in a bid based on the Airbus 330 model.

"We have to make sure that when we have a competition in DC, it's a fair competition for building airplanes, and they're not backed by illegal subsidies," said Cantwell.

Cantwell says she wants the Department of Defense to essentially exclude any bids from EADS, after the World Trade Organization ruled that company was getting illegal subsidies from European governments.

"It's frustrating to watch all the political things with just trying to get a tanker in place to support our  military," said Baublits.

But with the Air Force saying it won't make a decision on the $35 billion contract until November, it looks like it ultimately will be Boeing versus EADS and all the trickle-down companies who are worried about the latest delay.

"The larger that gap is, the more problematic that's going to be for the supply chain, because you take your tools offline, you put those programs away," said Marty Dunn_Program/Material Mgr, PMW Inc.

As for what caused the award delay, Air Force officials tell reporters it was a planning decision.

Politicians say the tanker contract could create 11,000 new jobs and inject almost $700 million into the local economy.