Wichita received some outstanding economic development news this week with the final selection of McConnell Air Force Base for the KC-46A Refueling Tanker mission. The base will benefit from $219 million in improvements to prepare for the mission and the new mission strengthens the local economy in numerous ways that will show long-term benefits.
Less than 24 hours after the announcement from the Air Force, Spirit AeroSystems announced that it is filling 250 open positions in Wichita, while 575 Kansas employees at Cessna Aircraft and Beechcraft received 60-day layoff notices. Airbus has also announced pending layoffs.
These types of announcements strengthen the resolve of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) to provide more employment certainty for our skilled workforce. Aggressively pursuing opportunities to grow our established businesses and attract new ones will help our community retain experienced employees and their families.
The Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) staff believes this quarter will set a new record for the number of leads generated. They have been primarily focusing on three sectors this month: non-aviation manufacturing, additive manufacturing, and pitching the Boeing facilities.
GWEDC President Tim Chase and VP-Business Development Debra Teufel spent 12 days in Germany earlier this month. The first part of their trip was devoted to making connections during the world’s largest annual manufacturing trade fair, Hannover Messe. Chase and Teufel held 25 meetings with technology company representatives during their four-day stay. Held April 7-11, the fair is made up of over 20 halls filled with 5,000 exhibitors representing 100 nations. About 180,000 industrial company representatives attended this year.
Chase and Teufel also spent time in Bremen to capitalize on relationships that were established when GWEDC hosted a 30 member Bremen delegation in Wichita last fall. Bremen shares some interesting workforce similarities with Wichita and officials there reciprocated with meetings and tours of some of their manufacturing and assembly facilities, including those operated by Airbus (where the wings of the A330 and A350 XWB Aircarft are equipped with relevant systems) and Mercedes. In addition to discussing similar supply chains and learning more about the special development effort that has resulted in Airport City Bremen, information about WSU’s proposed Innovation Center were shared with three engineering companies that are possible candidates for establishing a US presence.
Beth Shelton, Manager of Business Development for GWEDC, attended an Additive Manufacturing Users Group conference in Tucson, Arizona. Utilizing the unique expertise found at user group events vs. traditional trade shows proved to be extremely more enlightening as GWEDC prepares our strategy. Beth established additional contacts in the 3D Printing industry to those identified at last year’s Aerospace and Defense event by Tim and Debraand was able to familiarize them with the technical expertise available in Wichita.
Pitching the Boeing Facilities
GWEDC is reaching out to a variety of companies that can re-occupy the vacant Boeing properties. One primary use would be for large aircraft modification. Beth Shelton participated in GWEDC’s first time at the MRO Americas Conference & Exhibition. The Conference was well attended with 10,000 registered attendees and over 720 exhibitors representing 72 countries. More than 25 Wichita companies exhibited. Beth had pre-arranged meetings with several of the largest MRO companies in the world.
Follow this link for a webinar that was posted this week with more information about the role of the GWEDC.