Aerospace giant Boeing Co., which for years has been cutting its workforce in Southern California, announced that it plans to increase its engineering workforce in Long Beach and Seal Beach by 1,000 positions over the next two years.
It is a surprising announcement from the plane maker, which has 1,800 commercial engineers in Long Beach and Seal Beach. The company said earlier in the week that it would shutter its C-17 production line three months earlier than planned in mid-2015.
After years of moving work away from Southern California, Boeing has signaled its intentions to reinforce its presence. Last year, Boeing said it would move about 675 jobs to the region -- many from the Puget Sound area around Seattle.
In May, Boeing announced the establishment of a new engineering design center for commercial aircraft. At that time, it also announced that engineering support for out-of-production airplanes would be based at the center.
The company's announcement Thursday indicates that much of the work on next-generation aircraft will transition from Washington state to California by the end of 2015.
"We will be expanding our presence in Southern California to create a site dedicated to a superior customer experience," Lynne Thompson, a Boeing commercial airplanes vice president, said in a statement. "This move will allow us to tap into existing engineering talent in California to expand on our outstanding customer support and align resources in a single location."
It is a return to a rich commercial aircraft making history in the Southland for Boeing.
The Long Beach plant was built by Douglas Aircraft Co. and still has a large "Fly DC Jets" sign in front. It thrived for decades, employing thousands and producing some of the world's most popular airliners, including the DC-3, DC-8 and MD-80.
Boeing stopped producing commercial aircraft there in 2006, when the last 717 rolled off the line. It was a plane that Boeing inherited when it acquired McDonnell Douglas Corp. in 1997.
Military work done in Long Beach currently includes assembly of the C-17 cargo jet for the Air Force. About 2,200 employees support the C-17 program in California. The company already has begun workforce reductions this year and plans to continue the cuts through next year's closure.
With 18,640 workers, California still has the most Boeing employees of any state other than Washington, where it was founded. But the workforce is a far cry from 10 years ago, when it hovered around 35,000 workers and Boeing was the largest private employer in Southern California.