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Economic development group touts 2013 achievements, including adding 1,117 jobs

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at 2:15 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at 6:17 p.m.

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The Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition said that in 2013 it helped bring in companies that have promised to create 1,117 jobs over the next five years.

The average annual pay for those jobs was projected at $28,525.

The coalition provided the 2013 recap at its annual meeting Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. As part of its review of the past year, the coalition said it brought in $43.1 million in capital investment.

The biggest project of the previous year was arrival of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts contact center, which brought the promise of 907 jobs over five years averaging $23,816 per job, along with $4.9 million in capital investment at the former Wichita Mall on East Harry. Starwood interim site leader Tony Alwora said the center presently has 415 people and is adding 60 a month.

Other projects were:

• High Touch Technologies, expansion, 50 jobs with an average salary of $65,000, with a $3.25 million investment.

• JR Custom Metal Products, expansion, adding 15 jobs with average pay of $31,200 per person, and a $714,500 investment.

• Wesley Medical Center, expansion, 45 jobs at $55,000, with a $35.5 million investment.

• Triumph Aerospace Systems, expansion, 100 jobs at $40,685, with a $4.07 million investment. The company has since been repurchased by its founder Jim Lee and will be known as Lee Aerospace.

Looking into the future, Steve Sharp, chairman of the coalition’s board, said the group has plans to accelerate its economic development efforts over the next five years.

Members of the Wichita Leadership Council, a collection of the city’s most influential business and community leaders, assessed Wichita’s competitiveness at 2.5 on a scale of 1 to 5, and said that must rise to 4.5 to be effective.

Wichita has to essentially double its competitiveness, said coalition President Tim Chase. That means being aggressive and being innovative.

“Business as usual is not an option,” Chase said. “We have to try some new things. Try them, evaluate them, see what works and what doesn’t, and, if they aren’t working, try something else.”

New coalition efforts include:

• Real estate: The coalition took an option on a 460-acre industrial site west of Mid-Continent Airport and is marketing it to site selection consultants. The number of other sites in the area that are attractive to industry has grown in the last two years, Chase said.

• Marketing: It is broadening the industries for which staff will attend conferences; the wider net will include advanced manufacturing, three-dimensional printing and information technology. Chase said the coalition is also looking at agricultural processing and cyber-security shows.

• Branding: It’s exploring a joint branding campaign for Wichita, in conjunction with the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, Go Wichita and Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

• Exporting: It is supporting the Brookings Institution’s export growth planning process that other local groups are spearheading.

• Reshoring: It will target companies that are looking to return some operations to the U.S. from overseas.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who attended the event, told the audience that state government has moved strongly to support job creation efforts, creating a pro-business climate by making substantial tax cuts for small businesses.

“The governor has made it very clear, he wants this to be the best place to have a family and the best place to have a business,” he said.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

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