Aircraft Industry Troubles Brings Economic Crisis To Sedgwick County Sooner

By: Natasha Trelfa Email
By: Natasha Trelfa Email

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Cessna employees received an e-mail Wednesday notifying them 500 workers in Wichita and 165 in Bend, Oregon, will be let go. While Segwick county has been fairly insulated from the economic downturn, officials say it's starting to creep into our area, in large part due to the problems in the aviation industry.

"We're starting to have the national economy impact us here in Sedgwick County," says Chris Chronis, Sedgwick County Chief Financial Officer. "We are not as immune as we might have hoped to be."

While large parts of the country are already feeling the brutal impact of the economic downturn, Sedgwick County officials say we've been mostly immune, thanks in large part to the aviation industry. But that's about to change.

"The aircraft industry is starting to plan for increases in cancellations and that's going to flow through to all aspects of the local economy," said Chronis.

At the end of September, Chronis said the county's sales tax was up six percent. One month later, it had plummeted to just above four percent. Property tax values are also expected to drop next year. Chronis said between the Boeing strike, Spirit workers being on shortened work weeks, and Hawker and Cessna planning hundreds of layoffs, he said those numbers will keep dropping.

"I expect we're going to see that decline at increasing rates in the coming months," he explained.

County officials didn't expect to see the economic trouble here until late 2010, since the aircraft companies have billions in back logs. The credit crunch has caused a number of cancellations of plane orders as buyers try to get their finances in order, forcing the economic downturn in the county to come sooner.

"The national economy is going to be down for at least all of 2009 and early into 2010. We lag that by about six months," said Chronis.

While officials prepare to tighten the purse strings in the coming year Cessna workers prepare to buckle down in the coming weeks as they await some 500 layoffs.

"Hopefully, it's not me. I feel sorry for anybody that gets let go," said one Cessna worker.

"It's just a tough time of year to get hit with it," said another worker.

Chronis did say during the county commission meeting that we are by no means in crisis mode, and the county's in a good position to manage the problem. As for the Cessna workers they can expect 60-day notices to be handed out in the coming weeks.

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