Local, state leaders plan push for new Boeing work

By: Phil White and Chris Frank Email
By: Phil White and Chris Frank Email
Boeing may look for a new site for work on its 777X airplane.

Credit: Boeing

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WICHITA, Kan. -- Economic leaders representing Wichita, Sedgwick County and the State of Kansas are letting Boeing know it is welcome to bring work on its next jet to the air capital city.

Boeing workers in Washington this week rejected contract concessions the company wanted in exchange for work on the next version of its 777 airplane, known for now as the 777X. That 67-percent rejection by the machinists union has other states saying they are open for business.

"We have a plant that's sitting there ready to be utilized and we have a workforce that literally has an aviation DNA," said Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh.

He is among the area leaders who plan to be part of the push to entice Boeing to place 777X work in Wichita.

"Any time that we can be considered for what will result in a lot of good jobs for our citizens, we're going to do all we can to be involved and help bring those jobs to south-central Kansas," Unruh said.

After the Seattle-area machinists rejected a proposed eight-year contract extension that also asked for major pension changes, Boeing may open the 777X work to competition. Kansas is making sure it is part of the conversation.

Eileen Hawley, spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, said the state has already let Boeing know Kansas is interested.

"We have reached out to Boeing to remind them that Kansas has aviation experience and a skilled workforce," she said. "We encourage them to look at us."

Tim Chase, president of the Wichita Area Economic Development Coalition said he has contacted local and state leaders about starting an aggressive strategy to lure the Boeing work to Wichita.

That, Unruh said, is just the beginning of a long process.

"It will take time," he said. "We will get impatient. We will grow weary of the process, but we're going to hang in there to see where it leads us."

Unruh said economic incentives will likely have to be a part of any pitch Kansas makes to Boeing. He realizes those may be tough to sell to taxpayers.

"It's just too bad that in the environment nationwide that's one of the tools that's often applied to secure the prospect," Unruh said.

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