Governor's First Economic Summit Targets Aviation

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Monday, April 25, 2011

State leaders including the governor and legislators are reminded that just because Wichita is one of only five aviation clusters in the world, doesn't mean it will remain an aviation center.

Governor Sam Brownback gathered aviation and economic leaders from across the state Monday to pose a simple question: "What do we need to do to keep and expand Wichita as the Aviation Capital of the World?" Though a simple question, it prompted hours of discussion at the governor's aviation summit held in Wichita Monday. Leaders from more than 100 companies and universities exchanged ideas on how to grow the aviation industry.

One leader gave an ominous warning of what could happen if aviation in Wichita's isn't nurtured. "Our responsibility as a collective group today is to figure out how we continue to steward this industry along, because it will just go away. It will happen over time. It will happen without very specific action," David Coleal, Bombardier Learjet Vice President and General Manager, said.

Some of the reoccurring recommendations the governor heard included:

o Keep the spotlight on workforce training and research by
funding NIAR, the National Institute for Aviation Research on
the WSU campus, and for NCAT, the National Center for Aviation
Training.

o Make sure pro-business tax policies are competitive with other
states to attract new work.

o Make sure economic development polices encourage
companies to expand and new businesses to come to
Kansas

o Keep Wichita's air fares competitive

"The way the state approaches incentives, taxation and regulation matters." Jeff Turner, Spirit Aerosystems CEO said. Turner says he gets calls weekly from other cities, states and countries offering big money to relocate work. "It's just a fact of life that other states and countries offer significant incentives.

"These are the highest wage, highest skilled manufacturing jobs in the world and everybody wants them. We've got them, and we've got to work at keeping them. And that's what we're going to do," Governor Brownback added.

At the summit, Hawker Beechcraft executive Bil Brown said other states offered the company more money to move out of Kansas last year. But, he said those other states don't have a research center or workforce training like NCAT and NIAR provide, indicating that factored into the decision to stay. That, along of course with $45 million dollars in incentives, all a part of the reality of keeping Wichita in place as the Air Capital.


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