Aerospace | Boeing lands in the metropolis

Some 300 million in private investments will be announced for the takeoff of a new innovation zone


Published at 1:20 a.m.

Updated at 5:00 a.m.

Shaken by great turbulence in the United States, Boeing will land a major investment in the Montreal region on Tuesday. The American giant will be at the origin of the majority of the 300 million private investments which will be announced during the take-off of the fourth innovation zone by the Legault government, we have learned The Press.

Highly anticipated, this announcement includes multiple components: establishment of a new development center, research on a new type of aircraft, addition of training programs in the field.

The announcement will take place as a curtain-raiser to Aéro Montréal’s International Aerospace Innovation Forum – which presents itself as the “largest gathering of international decision-makers in the aerospace sector in Canada”.

The Legault government will take the opportunity to confirm the creation of an aerospace innovation zone, which will be deployed in three hubs: Longueuil (Saint-Hubert borough), Montreal (Saint-Laurent borough) and Mirabel. The arrival of Boeing will enrich the area where major players such as Airbus, Bombardier and CAE are already located.

Public assistance

Quebec will contribute several tens of millions of dollars. In his budget tabled on March 12, the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, had also set aside an envelope of 75 million over five years (15 million per year) to “ensure the growth of the aerospace sector”.

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PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard

“Important projects are expected to start over the next year in the space sector,” the budget plan read.

There are no details, but we decode that the government was preparing for the landing of Boeing in the metropolitan region and the creation of the innovation zone.

Commitments

This arrival of the American aircraft manufacturer coincides with its obligation to generate billions in economic benefits after winning a multi-billion dollar contract from the federal government last November. This involves the delivery of 16 Poseidon P-8As – 14 firm orders and 2 options – to replace the aging surveillance aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). These planes are assembled in the United States.

This issue took a political turn since the agreement was granted by mutual agreement to the American giant while Bombardier requested a call for tenders to offer a militarized version of its Global 6500 private jet. Quebec and Ontario had publicly supported the Quebec manufacturer.

Federal government rules required Boeing to generate, in Canada, economic benefits equivalent to the portion of the contract surrounding the construction of the Poseidon. Monitoring of commitments must in principle be carried out by federal civil servants.

Boeing had given a foretaste of its intentions by unveiling 16 initiatives when obtaining the contract from Ottawa, without offering many details. The most concrete announcement concerned a maintenance contract for Chinook military helicopters awarded to L3 Harris Canada, which allowed it to add 20 employees in Mirabel, in the Laurentians.

The multinational had also committed to establishing a research and development center, without however quantifying the scale of this investment, the city which would host it as well as the number of employees.

Boeing also promised a “skills development program” with McGill University. According to our information, the niche of the Quebec establishment which specializes in air and space law should act as a training center for the legal affairs department of the American multinational.

Boeing’s contribution will also benefit the development of training at the École nationale d’aérotechnique, affiliated with Cégep Édouard-Montpetit. A new campus is under construction, a branch of the École de Technologie Supérieure (ETS).

As part of the conditions to be met, the American aircraft manufacturer must also integrate Canadian suppliers into its supply chain, therefore on programs other than the Poseidon. Based in Longueuil, Héroux-Devtek, which generates nearly 20% of its annual revenues from the multinational, should benefit from this. A new agreement between this company and Boeing is in the works.

Advantages of a zone

Without being aware of all the details of the announcements planned for next Tuesday, Mehran Ebrahimi, professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) and director of the International Observatory of Aeronautics and Civil Aviation, is well aware the fact that Quebec industry is waiting to be designated as an innovation zone.

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PHOTO KARENE-ISABELLE JEAN-BAPTISTE, ARCHIVES SPECIAL COLLABORATION

Mehran Ebrahimi, professor at UQAM and director of the International Observatory of Aeronautics and Civil Aviation

“This concept makes it possible to better target investments,” says the expert. Currently, we sprinkle it everywhere. We will be able to better structure around main themes. For example, with the National School of Aerotechnics and the ETS university campus in Longueuil, we will know that it is there that the concept of training will be concentrated. »

Until now, Boeing was present in Quebec through subsidiaries. Wisk Aero, which is working on the design of an electric flying taxi, has an office in Laval. Jeppesen, which specializes in navigation systems, is also present in Montreal. Last April, The Press reported that Wisk wanted to double its workforce – it has around 45 engineers in the northern suburbs of Montreal – and the size of its offices.

The reputation of the American manufacturer is being damaged in recent times due to a recent in-flight incident and quality and safety problems in production. Boeing has been under the microscope of American authorities since a door of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 plane came off in mid-flight on January 5. Whistleblowers – notably former employees of the aircraft manufacturer – have highlighted flaws in the aircraft manufacturer’s practices.

Quebec currently has three innovation zones, a project launched by Prime Minister François Legault. The first two were announced in 2022: on quantum science in Sherbrooke and another on digital technologies in Bromont. The third, announced last year, is the Energy Transition Valley bringing together Bécancour, Trois-Rivières and Shawinigan.

In addition to the aerospace zone, another innovation zone could soon be created, the “Blue Zone” of the maritime sector in Rimouski and Grande-Rivière.

Learn more

  • 238
    Number of members of Aéro Montréal, the Quebec industry cluster

    Source: Aéro Montréal

    37,000
    Number of jobs in the Quebec aerospace industry

    Source: Government of Quebec

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