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Wichita’s aviation industry, facilities, skilled work force on display at NBAA in Las Vegas

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, at 8:46 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, at 1:39 p.m.

Local economic development officials will promote Wichita – especially its Boeing facilities, aviation industry and skilled work force – when they travel to Las Vegas next week for three key conventions.

“We’re going to be bouncing back and forth,” Greater Economic Development Coalition president Tim Chase said of manning all three events. “It’s going to be all hands on deck.”

The GWEDC will take part in the National Business Aviation Association’s annual convention, the CoreNet Global North American Summit and a Marcus Evans Group aerospace and defense matchmaking event, all in the matter of days.

The GWEDC will promote Boeing’s facilities in southeast Wichita at the CoreNet Global North American Summit, which is expected to attract 2,000 to 3,000 corporate office real estate executives from around the country, Chase said.

“We’re going to be displaying at that exhibit,” Chase said. “If you are vice president of real estate with a large publicly held company, this is the event you go to.

“They need to know that we have 600,000 plus office space on a 70-acre campus and that we have over a million square feet of manufacturing and hangar space that is coming available.”

Boeing announced in January 2012 that it planned to close its historic Wichita facility and move work to Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Pacific Northwest. Company officials said cuts to the nation’s defense budget, high overhead costs at the plant and a wind-down of current programs led to its decision to close.

Boeing is working with national real estate firm CBRE in Kansas City, Mo., to sell the facilities near 47th and Oliver.

Marketing materials for the facilities will refer interested parties to the firm, Chase said.

“We can tell Boeing’s story,” he said. “We want to make sure we tell that to as many people as we possibly can who are sensitive to or in the business of real estate.”

NBAA

The GWEDC and its partners will promote Wichita and its skilled aviation work force at the world’s largest business aviation show, the NBAA convention, that opens Tuesday in Las Vegas.

It’s a perfect venue with 25,000 attendees and 1,100 exhibitors.

At its exhibit at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the theme is “High Flying Talent,” Chase said.

“Talent is what we have to offer,” he said. “That is the most important differentiator that other communities can talk about but can’t really drive home as well as Wichita can.”

Communities and states aggressively promote themselves to aviation manufacturers and companies attending NBAA.

“The other communities that are constantly knocking on their doors to invest elsewhere in the country are sort of Johnny-come-latelys to the aviation business,” Chase said. “If you go and talk with most any community across the country and ask them what industry sectors are you targeting … I would guess 50 percent of them would say some aspect of aviation or aerospace.”

The reason is the high multiplier effect aviation has on a community, Chase said. Depending on the economic metric used, every job in aviation creates two or three additional jobs in a community, he said.

According to Forbes magazine, Wichita ranks third in the nation when it comes to its concentration of engineers in the work force. San Jose, Calif., and Houston were No. 1 and No. 2. Wichita has 22 engineers per 1,000 workers because of the number of aviation engineers who are here.

The job now, officials said, is to protect and grow Wichita’s aviation industry.

“We have what many many other cities wish they had,” Chase said. “It’s a matter of getting the story told.”

“It’s difficult to build a cluster, but it can be relatively easy to lose a cluster,” Chase said. “Part of the reason for attending the show is to reinforce the notion that we have the most competitive work force in the country.”

The GWEDC is partnering with a number of other groups that are sending representatives to NBAA. Partners include the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County, National Institute for Aviation Research, National Center for Aviation Training, Kansas Department of Commerce, Newton City-County Airport, Capps Manufacturing, Assystem, K-96 Coalition, the Wichita Airport Authority and the Wichita Aero Club.

Defense industry

The GWEDC will also take part in a Marcus Evans Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing Summit on Sunday and Monday. It brings executives from more than 50 aerospace and defense manufacturers together with companies offering parts, services and other products.

It’s an invitation-only matchmaking event, and Chase said the GWEDC is the only economic development group to take part.

“We think that’s a tremendous competitive advantage,” he said.

Chase and GWEDC managing director Debra Teufel are scheduled to meet with 24 companies. Each will meet separately with 12 companies, with each meeting scheduled to last 30 minutes.

“This is our first attempt at doing this,” Chase said. “We really want to look at things a little bit differently than we have in the past. We want to make sure we’re exploring every possible way to tell our story better.”

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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