City Council approves 5-year agreement with Greater Wichita Economic Development Council

01/07/2014 3:53 PM

08/06/2014 9:37 AM

The Wichita City Council signed on for another five years with the Greater Wichita Economic Development Council on Tuesday, praising the group’s job creation and retention efforts.

The council approved a new five-year, $1.5 million agreement that provides $300,000 a year toward the group’s job efforts, subject to yearly council approval. The Sedgwick County Commission approved a similar amount Dec. 11.

Council members were unanimous in their support for the group’s economic development efforts.

“Now, you guys can get back to work,” Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer joked after the vote.

Steve Sharp of Spirit AeroSystems, the chairman of the GWEDC board, told the council that the group has raised $6.3 million in private funds for recruitment and retention from its Business at Full Throttle campaign.

“The mission is to grow primary jobs in Wichita,” Sharp said, based on the recruitment of new companies and the retention of existing jobs.

Council member Jeff Longwell said those existing Wichita jobs are particularly important to him.

“Equally important are the companies we are able to grow here, who have maintained a presence,” Longwell said. “I’d like to say thank you for actively pursuing homegrown companies to stay in Wichita.”

Sharp said the GWEDC visits more than 100 local companies annually “to see how we can facilitate growth.” It also serves as a facilitator for deals between the city, state, county, service providers and financiers.

The GWEDC does face-to-face sales through 99 events and conferences, Sharp said. It operates a website and produces advertising and other custom materials.

City documents, cited by Sharp and city officials in Tuesday’s presentation, indicate that the GWEDC has produced a little more than $95 million in public benefits and has exceeded job creation and capital investment goals since its formation a decade ago.

Although the agency receives public funding, some financial information remains closed to the public; the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office has said in the past that the coalition doesn’t fall under open-records laws. Information from similar organizations that receive some public money, including Go Wichita and the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., is similarly closed.

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