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Construction completed on Boeing's first St. Louis commercial airplanes facility

Construction completed on Boeing's first St. Louis commercial airplanes facility

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Updated at 1 p.m. 

Boeing marked the completion of its first commercial aircraft facility in the St. Louis area with a grand-opening ceremony Thursday. 

Employees at the new 424,000-square foot Boeing Composite Center of Excellence at 8900 Frost Avenue in Berkeley will build composite parts for the 777X, the company’s newest commercial jetliner.

Maplewood-based MC Industrial, a subsidiary of McCarthy Holdings, built the facility, which was expanded from an earlier design to include the addition of a paint facility on the south side of the building.

Production of the aircraft’s wing edge and tail parts will begin early next year, and the aircraft is targeted for delivery in 2020. The 777X wing will be assembled in Everett, Wash. Parts production in St. Louis is scheduled to start in early 2017.

The 777X work is generating 700 jobs locally over the next few years, Chicago-based Boeing said Wednesday. Boeing has spent $200 million so far to construct the facility, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, and plans to spend an additional $100 million to outfit it with final tooling and equipment.

That construction met the requirements for Boeing to qualify for subsidies from the state of Missouri that could reach $229 million over 18 years. Boeing would have to increase its St. Louis workforce by 2,000 jobs to qualify for the full subsidy. The unusual agreement allows Boeing to reap smaller payments if it simply keeps employment over 12,500.

The 777X is a long-haul, double-aisle airliner designed to carry up to 400 passengers while using less fuel than the competition.

Production of 777X wing edge and tail parts is expected to begin at the plant in early 2017, the company said.

Boeing had 306 orders for the 777X through September. The 777X replaces the highly successful 777, introduced in 1995.

The ribbon-cutting Thursday morning included Boeing employees and Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, who helped push for incentives for the plant expansion. 

Boeing Defense, Space & Security division is based in Hazelwood and the company currently has about 15,000 workers in the St. Louis area. 

"This has been Boeing defense, obviously, and to get commercial work here, to broaden that portfolio, especially with these composites which are going to be used in defense and commercial both, gives an asset here," Nixon said, adding Boeing's two autoclaves at the facility that weigh more than 200,000 pounds are unlikely to be moved.  

"When they make this level of capital investment, it means not only these 700 jobs but more to come in the future," Nixon said. 

Jim Gallagher and Kevin McDermott of the Post-Dispatch and Reuters contributed to this report. 

Lisa Brown • 314-340-8127

@lisabrownstl on Twitter

lbrown@post-dispatch.com

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