The Wichita metro economy shrank 2.3 percent in 2009 — or down 3.8 percent when removing the impact of inflation — according to estimates released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Wichita did worse than the nation as a whole and was one of the worst-performing economies in the Plains region,
The four-county Wichita metro region generated $27 billion in goods and services in 2009, down from $27.6 billion in 2008. That made Wichita the nation's 76th largest economy.
The biggest drag on the local, regional and national economies was manufacturing, according to the estimates. About 80 percent of Wichita's overall decline can be attributed to the plunge in manufacturing.
Mel Adams, CEO of Wichita's RV Products, a maker of air conditioners for recreational vehicles, remembers 2009 as "a terrible moment in time."
The company saw sales fall 30 percent from a peak in 2007. Business got so slow that he shut down the factory for four weeks in late 2008 and early 2009.
"It was pretty severe, pretty painful," he said.
"There was a lot of question over whether we would go down further or stabilize," he said. "It wasn't until the fourth quarter that we saw signs that things had stabilized."
The downturn killed off a major competitor, so the company saw sales jump 35 percent in 2010.
The hardest-hit region was the heaviest in manufacturing, the Great Lakes region, where 51 of 56 cities shrank.
But for some regional cities, 2009 was a pretty good year. Those in oil and mining did well. Oklahoma City, for instance, grew 14.5 percent in inflation-adjusted terms and Tulsa 7.6 percent.
College towns sailed through, as well. Manhattan grew by 3.4 percent and Lawrence 1.3 percent.
Regionally, Topeka lost 0.4 percent; Omaha lost 1.4 percent; and the Kansas City metro area lost 2.3 percent.
Since 2001, Wichita's economy has grown 5.1 percent in inflation-adjusted terms.