Blue Origin picks Alabama for rocket plant whose incentive offers left Washington state out of running

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin will build its next-generation BE-4 rocket engines in Huntsville, Alabama, bringing more than 340 manufacturing jobs and $200 million in capital investment. Washington state, the home of Blue Origin, was not even a finalist.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space company will build its next-generation BE-4 rocket engines in Huntsville, Alabama, bringing the prospect of more than 340 manufacturing jobs and $200 million in capital investment to that city.

Washington state, the home of Blue Origin, was not even a finalist in the state-versus-state competition to select a location, according to Brian Bonlender, director of Washington’s Department of Commerce.

“We were considered in the first or second round,” Bonlender said.

But when Gov. Jay Inslee met Jan. 12 with Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson and asked what Washington state might do to match upfront incentive offers from other states, he didn’t get very far.

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“The response was that we weren’t even close enough to have that conversation,” Bonlender said.

Alabama is providing more than $50 million in incentives, and local governments plan their own inducements, officials there said.

“The incentive packages other states offered were a big determinant,” Bonlender said. “We were unable to come close to the types of offers they were getting from other states.”

Washington’s constitution bars the state from providing upfront money to private companies — either directly or indirectly, such as paying for construction of a facility — as an incentive to locate work here.

The state’s incentives for Boeing are delivered in the form of tax breaks, both rate reductions and tax credits, which mean Boeing pays the state less of its revenue, as opposed to being handed money.

Many economic-development partners contributed to the effort to successfully…

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