President Barack Obama toured and spoke at the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington mid-day on Friday. An audience of Boeing workers and local politicians waited for President Obama to take the stage with three Dreamliners and a banner with the slogan “An America Built to Last” as a backdrop.
Air Force One arrived at Boeing Field at around 11am, which was an event in itself for local planespotters. A motorcade brought President Obama, Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, and Boeing escorts onto the vast 787 factory floor. The President toured two of three Dreamliners before exiting the second 787 (already outfitted in a make-shift United Airlines livery) onto a red carpet down the stairs and to the podium. In his speech, Obama made sure to give “props” to United since they are based out of his hometown of Chicago.
After thanking Boeing for the “smooth ride” he has in Air Force One, the 747 which was built at the Boeing Everett plant in 1986, President Obama admired the 787 Dreamliner in front of the Boeing audience,“This is the first commercial airplane to be made with 50% composite materials. It’s lighter, it’s faster, it’s more fuel-efficient than any airplane in its class. And it looks cool.”
Later, Obama stated that business was “booming” for Boeing, citing a 50% increase in orders for commercial aircraft last year, and 13,000 new Boeing employees hired across the country. Obama praised Boeing as a company that keeps jobs in America in a global economy where many manufacturing jobs are moving overseas. Boeing employees cheered as Obama skewered foreign competition, “Companies like Boeing are finding out that even when we can’t make things faster or cheaper than China, we can make them better.” In what will inevitably be an election year issue, Obama continued by laying out his hopes to change the tax code to favor companies who keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and more heavily tax companies who outsource.
From the 25-year employee and the 787 Quality Inspector who got to introduce Jim Albaugh (President and Chief Executive Officer of the Boeing Commercial Airplanes) and President Obama, respectively, to Obama’s personal acknowledgement of machinist and engineering union leaders in the audience, workers were clearly meant to be at the forefront of the event. “If we have a level playing field, America will always win, because we have the best workers.”
The praise of America’s workforce was particularly well-timed with the payroll tax bill that passed through Congress with bipartisan support Friday morning. President Obama took a couple of minutes in Everett to celebrate the bill that will delay a payroll tax hike for working Americans and will renew jobless benefits for others. In one of his only mentions of bitterly divided political parties, Obama lauded the bill as “what happens when Congress focuses on doing the right thing instead of just playing politics.”
After leaving the Everett facility, President Obama visited elsewhere in the Seattle-area via helicopter, but shortly returned to Paine Field and departed in Air Force One at about 6pm local time.