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Cornelia Walker Publisher
Boeing Exiting Macon Market At The End of 2016

by Clarence Thomas, Jr.
A 28-year-old professional and personal relationship between Macon-Bibb County and the Boeing company will come to a bitter sweet end this December.

On October 17, the renowned aircraft maker announced that it would cease operations at its Middle Georgia Regional Airport Industrial Park location to the surprise and disappointment of county officials and local businesses. About 120 jobs will be negatively impacted.

The announcement came just over a year out from a promising venture rolled out by Boeing and the county in September 2015. The plan called for Boeing to invest close to 82 million and create around 200 jobs through the conversion of its Macon military facility into a commercial airplane manufacturing plant. Macon Mayor Robert Reichert referred to the plans at that announcement as unprecedented and said it was the first time this kind of venture would have taken place.

Boeing officials recently admitted however that it wouldn't be economically expedient to continue the current course in Macon. The company identified a slow cargo market coupled with a low demand for extra-large cargo freighters as culprits. As a result, operations would end in the mid-state before the first of next year stated a representative. Boeing added that it would assist employees with finding new jobs at other company locations or in the private our public sectors with other businesses.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas, Vice Chairperson of the commission's Economic and Community Development committee, is especially concerned about the future of the Boeing workers that will be displaced. Besides being a county official focusing on easing the economic impact of Boeing's departure, she represents District 3 – the district in which Boeing has operated since 1988. She says Boeing has been a great contributor to the local economy and will be missed. "It really is a sad day when an industry like Boeing leaves," Lucas said. Earline-Dab Appling owns Dab's Café in the airport across from aerospace giant. Appling agrees with Lucas. "We truly hate that Boeing is closing since it will have a major impact on the people that have been there so many years," she said. "My hopes are that they will be able to meet or exceed their current salaries that will allow them to continue living their lifestyles."

While disappointed by the news, Lucas says the focus now is also on replacing Boeing. She points out that the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority is primarily charged with doing so and that county officials are relying on the authority to find a suitable substitute. "We know that the Industrial Authority will work hard to replace this loss as local government remains supportive of their efforts." Industrial Authority chairman Cliffard Whitby says Boeing leaving is a reflection of what is naturally happening in a global economy. The company made a decision that was in its best business interest Whitby said. "The Industrial Authority is now evaluating what is in the best interest of the community so that we can proceed," he said.

For those that are dwelling on the news, following Whitby's advice and lead might take the edge off Boeing's announcement and inevitable departure. He says that while the company has been a model business partner and valued resident, it represents the end of an era. Whitby suggests that the new economy is calling for those that are creative, innovative, proactive members of the emerging market. "Anytime you lose a blue chip like Boeing the magnitude of the loss is rather significant. Even though this is a significant development, it's not one that's devastating," Whitby stated. "We are well positioned to absorb this kind off loss. The authority is charting our own course for the future. We aren't relying on this business model going forward."

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P.O. Box 446, Macon, • GA 31202 * Ofc:  478-745-7265
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Cliffard Whitby