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A new world-class vision for Renton's aerospace center

One of the City of Renton's top priorities in the 2013 state legislative session is obtaining $10 million in state money to build an aerospace training center at the city's airport.

That money would go toward building what Boeing and other Renton partners believe is a real necessity – a world-class facility in Renton to train the next generations of aerospace workers.

Suzanne Dale Estey will brief the Renton City Council on the city's legislative agenda for 2013 on Monday, her last such briefing as the city's economic development director.

Dale Estey also has served as the city's intergovernmental relations director for the past six years. She has resigned from her city job, effective Jan. 2.

Top legislative priorities also include funding for Interstate 405 improved  capacity, relief from some public records requests, money to fight gangs and $1 million to replace the flood-damaged Riverview Park pedestrian bridge over the Cedar River.

Dale Estey is feeling "bullish" about the future of the aerospace industry in Renton and the state, especially now that the production of the Boeing 737 has been secured in Renton for the next few decades.

"That's one reason why it's hard to leave," she said.

The training center is part of a plan Dale Estey drafted in June 2011 to help develop and support the existing aerospace industry, including suppliers, in Renton and to attract new companies.

The $10 million is on top of $2.5 million the city received from the state this year to build a new center at the former longtime Renton Chamber of Commerce officer overlooking the city-owned Renton Municipal Airport.

Since that initial appropriation, the vision for the center has changed, said Dale Estey.

"Boeing and others came to us and said, 'You know, we should make this a world-class facility'," Dale Estey said.

A world-class vision means that office building on Rainier Avenue South will be "scraped," Dale Estey said, and a new building built with panoramic views of the Renton Municipal Airport – and the classrooms inside.

Driving the need for the new training is the looming retirement of thousands of Boeing production workers and engineers over the next five to 10 years.

The long-term challenge now "is getting kids excited about careers in aerospace," she said. The city and its partners have spoken with Renton Schools Supt. Mary Alice Heuschel about involving students of all grade levels in the center's programs.

"So the vision has broadened," she said.

Aerospace training at the center would be offered by Renton Technical College. RTC would offer Aerospace Manufacturing Assembly Mechanic certificate training, which it started in 2011 to train assembly mechanics, among other possible programs.

The City of Renton is working with the architectural firm, SRG Partnership Inc. The new vision calls for a significant increase in square footage, Dale Estey said.

Under the new vision, the new center would be built into the hillside off Perimeter Road, which nearly goes around the airport.

High bays would allow for viewing students learning on airport parts, such as fuselages and wings, below, she said. The outside view would be of the 737 flight line on the other side of the airport.

Dale Estey said the center "will be a significant asset to the Renton community" if the city can secure the funding from the state.

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