TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday that Wichita can expect positive developments in regards to Bombardier Learjet’s proposed expansion at Mid-Continent Airport.
“It’s going to be good news,” the governor said in an interview with The Eagle. “That’s a good company to have expanding in the state, and they’ve got a product line that we haven’t had so much before – that midsize commuter jet. That’s a good product line for us to start getting more of the work in.”
The proposed expansion would include a corporate center of excellence for aerospace engineering and information technology, a paint facility and the expansion of the Bombardier Flight Test Center and other facilities.
It would cost $52.7 million and is expected to add 450 new jobs.
Brownback said it would be a city and state announcement, but he did not elaborate on the expansion or what role government incentives will play.
Wichita and Sedgwick County have each approved $1 million in incentives. Local officials have suggested the company would seek $16 million to $18 million from the state.
Mayor Carl Brewer said the city is still waiting on official word from the state. “From all indications, this will be some really good news,” he said.
Brownback’s upbeat comments were part of his optimistic outlook for the state economy, particularly in the aviation, agricultural, animal health, and oil and gas industries.
“I’m very bullish on the state,” he said. “I think our key industry sectors are really moving in the right direction.”
Brownback acknowledged that national and international economies will play a big role in the state’s future, but he said the positive trends in Kansas are “pretty durable.”
The governor said he has met with top officials in Boeing’s defense, commercial and Washington operations regarding the company’s ongoing study of the possible closure of its Wichita facilities. He wouldn’t elaborate on those discussions or hint at what direction they’re headed.
But he said he wants to focus on attracting commercial aviation jobs and that the defense side of the aviation industry is trending downward.
“The money is just shrinking out of it,” he said. “And I think what we need to do is get a lot more Boeing commercial work, and that’s what we’re pushing to do while maintaining what we can on the defense side.”