Boeing last month chose South Carolina over the current Dreamliner final-assembly site in Everett, Wash., to locate a second plant, where prebuilt sections of the airliners are to be put together. Lured by financial incentives and the prospect of a nonunion work force, Boeing has moved quickly to begin work on the site, adjacent to where it already owns a factory that produces Dreamliner fuselage sections and a plant, in which Boeing has a stake, that fabricates 787 parts.

The move was a blow to Washington state's Puget Sound region, Chicago-based Boeing's original home and still the site of multiple factories that turn out all of the company's current commercial airplanes. But years of strife with the main labor union there have created assembly-line disruptions in the past, including a two-month strike last fall that contributed to further delays on the company's new marquee jet.

The ability to ramp up production of the Dreamliner in the coming years is essential for Boeing, which is more than two years behind in delivering on the 840 orders it has received for the new jet. Boeing officials have been careful to paint the move as an expansion of its facilities and not a shift away from Washington.

"We look forward to expanding our capability in South Carolina through our existing site, while maintaining our commitment to the Puget Sound region where Boeing Commercial Airplanes remains headquartered," Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive of Boeing's commercial-airplanes unit, said in a statement. "Puget Sound will continue to design and produce airplanes, including the 787."

Boeing and South Carolina officials say the new Dreamliner plant eventually will employ more than 3,800 people and is expected to roll out its first plane in 2012. Even as officials in South Carolina broke ground on the new factory, workers in Everett continued to scramble to ready the first Dreamliner for its long-delayed maiden flight. Boeing is aiming to get the first 787 aloft around Dec. 22, according to people familiar with the details.