Boeing officials have said they employ 86,000 in Washington, including 35,000 in Everett. When the tanker project, still in the design phase, is fully operational, it will support about 11,000 jobs, Boeing spokesman Jerry Drelling said in a statement.
The company's presence in Everett, population 103,000, is a point of pride and a lifeline, said Ray Stephanson, its Democratic mayor. Boeing is the top employer for Everett and Snohomish County, which surrounds it, and Skagit County to the north. Everett's deepwater port is nicknamed the "Port of Boeing" because of the company business that flows through it.
Kate Reardon, the city spokeswoman, compares her town's ties to Boeing to actor Kevin Bacon's six degrees of separation: "I don't know anyone who doesn't know someone who works at Boeing."
Federal defense spending two years ago accounted for 4.1 percent of Washington State's gross domestic product, the November 2011 Bloomberg Government study found.
That helps explain why the state's top elected officials — Democrats are in the governor's mansion, two Senate seats and 6 of 10 congressional slots — are unapologetic defense boosters.
"Jobs are the bread and butter for any politician, and defense mostly has great jobs, with great benefits and great pay," said Dan Gilman, a Vietnam veteran who leads Veterans for Peace in Seattle. "But we as a society need to step back and ask ourselves, when we're supposedly ending our wars, why do we need all of this equipment?"