By Alwyn Scott

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co on Friday began a major move to spread its commercial aircraft engineering talent and aircraft support staff around the U.S., announcing plans for engineering design and airplane-support centers outside of the Seattle area.

The Chicago-based company said it will establish engineering design centers in Washington state, South Carolina and Southern California. The centers will compete with each other for work based on their ability to supply skills at the lowest cost, spokesman Doug Alder said.

The company also is setting up a propulsion center in South Carolina that will make nacelles, or engine casings, for the forthcoming 737 MAX jet, due to enter production in 2015, with engines made by CFM, a joint venture of GE Aviation and Safran . On current 737s, United Technologies makes the nacelles.

Final assembly of the 737 MAX will still be done at the 737 factory in Renton, Washington, Alder said.

The moves will diversify the company's engineering base, Boeing said, allowing it to reduce risk by ensuring work can continue if problems erupt - from natural disasters to labor unrest.

Boeing will increase engineering jobs at existing facilities in South Carolina and Southern California. The company now has about 1,000 engineers in South Carolina, home of its second 787 assembly line, and 1,200 in Southern California.

About 300 jobs will move from the Seattle area in about six to nine months. There's no firm timetable or headcount for growth at the other centers, Alder said.

The design centers will need to compete for work inside the company. "Everything is on the table," Alder said. "It's up for grabs for any of these centers to compete for the work that's coming down the road."

In a related move, an airplane support center in Southern California that now provides quick access to engineering advice and spare parts for McDonnell Douglas aircraft will grow to cover all out-of-production Boeing aircraft. Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas in 1997.

Support for production aircraft will continue at centers in Washington state.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott in Seattle; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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