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WBJ: Wichita leaders seeking a $90 million economic development pool

By: Bill Roy - Wichita Business Journal
By: Bill Roy - Wichita Business Journal

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WICHITA, Kan. (WBJ) — Local economic development leaders, led by the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, will present to the Wichita City Council next week a plan to raise $90 million dollars to attract primary jobs to Wichita and Sedgwick County.

Gary Schmitt, GWEDC chairman, says while having to offer incentives to new companies might be distasteful, Wichita has to be able to compete with other communities that have far deeper economic development pockets.

“Do we compete and grow jobs here, or do we not compete and experience the consequences?” Schmitt says. “We have to compete. We have to provide more primary jobs. We have to support the quality of life we have in our community and we need to grow all those to make a vibrant community.”

High Touch Technologies CEO Wayne Chambers, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 chairman, says Wichita has to change to compete. It can’t, he says, continue to bring a knife to a gun fight, referencing the local money spent on economic development efforts.

Exactly how the $90 million would be raised is still in question. A sales tax increase would likely play a big part in the plan.

Schmitt says the leaders would like to have a plan in place in six months. There’s a chance a sales tax increase to raise the funding could be on November’s general election ballot.

Schmitt and Chambers were joined by several other leaders who discussed the plan with the Wichita Business Journal: Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh, Wichita City Manager Bob Layton and Chamber President and CEO Gary Plummer.


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