Monday’s inaugural Air Capital Supplier Summit was a welcome show of shared goodwill and forward thinking on the part of Wichita’s aviation businesses and Airbus. Let’s hope it’s also the official launch of a long, beautiful and lucrative partnership.
Airbus came to the right place a decade ago, when it opened its largest engineering center outside Europe in Wichita’s Old Town district. And this state, with its more than 450 companies involved in aerospace employing more than 32,000 people, offers the skills, knowledge and experience to do whatever Airbus asks of it.
The Wichita engineering office now has more than 350 employees, and Airbus has contracts in Kansas not only with Wichita’s Spirit AeroSystems but also Alcoa in Hutchinson, B/E Aerospace Interiors in Lenexa and Honeywell in Olathe.
In the coming decade, Airbus wants to double the $12 billion it spent last year with U.S. suppliers. Wichita stands ready to assist – and benefit.
Monday’s summit was held at the National Center for Aviation Training – a world-class facility that, along with Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research, offers additional evidence of Wichita’s readiness to serve the future of aerospace.
Some 200 representatives from more than 114 companies found out about Airbus and its needs and operations. The turnout was such that a second Kansas summit will be held soon. Remarkably, Airbus is interested in working not only with companies that already serve aviation, but also with businesses that have technologies not quite ready for the marketplace. It’s even looking to acquire some companies, especially in the services business, or related to air traffic control and component and electronics repair.
“We must make certain that as Airbus looks to contract with new U.S. suppliers, it looks to Kansas companies,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who co-hosted the summit with Airbus Americas chairman Allan McArtor.
In a commentary this week, Moran also said: “Wichita is the only place in the world that offers 90 years of experience in aviation manufacturing, access to the world’s largest supplier base, and aircraft workers and training second to none. It’s no wonder global aviation manufacturers like Airbus are eager to tap into the talents of Kansans.”
The summit proved an optimistic gathering for a local industry and community that have had a lot of reasons to feel pessimistic over the past few years but especially this year, with Boeing’s decision to leave town and Hawker Beechcraft’s bankruptcy filing.
Moran and McArtor deserve praise for setting up not only the summit but the framework for a long-term partnership between the aerospace giant and the Air Capital.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman