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Boeing announces $35 million expansion of Helena plant

Dan Boyce

The CEO of Boeing said Tuesday the company is expanding its Helena manufacturing plant by almost 50-percent.

Jim McNerney said the $35 million dollar expansion will add between 20 and 25 jobs to the facility’s workforce, allowing for the building of parts for the company’s 787 Dreamliner.

McNerney announced the expansion at the Montana Economic Development Summitin Butte alongside Senator Max Baucus and Governor Steve Bullock.

McNerney said the facility will be making a very important part for the Dreamliner.

“It’s the part that joins the body to the wing. That can’t fail, ok,” he said to a laughing crowd in the summit’s main auditorium.”

Construction will begin at the Helena facility this fall and finish sometime toward the end of 2014.

Boeing touts the Dreamliner as a lighter, more fuel efficient and more modern airplane. The plane has been making headlines after airlines experienced problems with its lithium ion batteries catching fire. McNerney said these are serious problems and the company is addressing them.

But, he said Boeing completely believes in the Dreamliner and customers and investors are showing that too.  

“We have an order book for the 787 it’s the biggest order book in the history of aviation,” he said. “So, our customers are probably a truer test of faith in the airplane than I would be.”

McNerney said the company has been impressed by the work ethic of their Montana staff since buying the old Summit Aeronautics facility three years ago.

“Our investment in the site’s infrastructure, people and the new products is testament to the Helena team’s ability to deliver on their commitments as reliable, globally competitive supplier to our commercial airplanes program,” McNerney said.

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