U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran sent a letter Tuesday to Boeing chairman and CEO James McNerney asking him to consider conveying the company’s property in Wichita to a local public entity in 2013 to help the city recover its economic footing after losing the company.
Boeing has a habit of holding onto its real estate after abandoning a location, Moran said in a speech Tuesday to the Wichita West Rotary Club.
“The last thing we want is for this facility to set there with their unwillingness to sell to a competitor, for example,” Moran said. “What an irony it would be if Airbus becomes very interested in this facility in Wichita.”
In February, Boeing was awarded the KC-46A tanker contract over EADS, the parent company of Airbus. Boeing last week announced it would close its Wichita plant by the end of 2013 and move work on the tanker planned for here elsewhere
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In his letter to McNerney, Moran said giving the land to a local or state entity “will enable the city of Wichita to attract new industries and get its economy back on track.”
Moran said the city of Wichita has provided more than $3.5 billion in industrial revenue bonds to finance Boeing facilities, and $650 million in property tax abatements since 1979.
“Boeing has also profited from lower taxes and worker training programs put into place by the state of Kansas,” the letter said. “Additionally, Boeing has benefitted from a supportive federal congressional delegation, which stood by Boeing throughout the last decade in the fierce competition for the Air Force tanker contract.”
The closure, which affects 2,160 workers, came after the company claimed the tanker would bring jobs to Wichita. Boeing cited cuts in the U.S. defense budget and changing market circumstances.
“When they say circumstances have changed, in my view, the circumstances that changed is they have the contract and they no longer need us,” Moran said in his speech to the Rotary club.
In an interview after the speech, Moran said he would urge state and local officials to have a dialogue about how best to pursue Boeing’s land, which has 97 buildings and covers nearly 2 million square feet. It could go to an entity that involves the city, county and state, a public building commission or a port authority, he said.
“That would be a decision for local folks as to how best it ought to be titled, and who ought to be in charge of finding new owners or new tenants,” Moran said.
Moran also was scheduled to appear Tuesday at Eisenhower High School in Goddard, and Aeroflex Corp. in Wichita.
He will meet with U.S. government students at Wichita Northwest High School on Wednesday.