Kansas must defend itself from other states and nations that have targeted the state's aerospace and aviation jobs, Sen. Sam Brownback said Tuesday.
Brownback, the Republican nominee for governor, rolled out what he calls a "Road Map for Kansas Aviation," a plan he says is aimed at protecting the state's aviation sector.
"We must defend our industry from other states and nations who have targeted it and want to take it away," Brownback said at a news conference that followed his speech to the Wichita Aero Club at the Hilton Wichita Airport.
During the news conference, Brownback shared the stage with Wichita aviation leaders — Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture, Spirit AeroSystems CEO Jeff Turner, Boeing Wichita vice president for flight and controls Laurette Lahey and Bombardier Learjet vice president and general manager David Coleal.
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Part of Brownback's plan includes forming an aviation advisory committee of industry leaders to develop a strategy for the state to address future challenges, he said.
Boisture said Brownback is right to call attention to the aviation industry and its challenges.
"I think he's focused on what aerospace needs... in the future," said Boisture, who has said his company is considering moving work to Louisiana, Mississippi and outside the country to cut costs.
Brownback has been a strong supporter of Kansas and the aviation industry as a senator, Turner said. "I am very excited about his being our governor."
The industry doesn't have to educate him on its importance to the state and the nation, Turner said. "He has a vision for the future of the industry in Kansas."
It isn't right, Brownback said, that other states are able to use federal stimulus money to try to recruit businesses and jobs from other states, such as Kansas.
That simply moves jobs from one state to another; it doesn't create them.
"That should not be allowed," Brownback said. "My push will be to limit the use of those dollars."
Wichita's aerospace cluster has unique industry, research and development and training partnerships that the world envies, he said.
If elected governor, Brownback said his administration would work with the National Center for Aviation Training, universities and local schools to expand programs to train engineers, machinists, mechanics and technicians and build upon the research and development capabilities at the National Institute for Aviation Research.
He also wants to build Wichita State University's aerospace engineering program into the country's best.
"I'll make it a priority to help our aerospace companies grow," Brownback said.
Brownback said he supports a U.S. Air Force refueling tanker built by an American company.
The European Union has illegally subsidized Europe's commercial aviation market, he said. Airbus has taken market share from Boeing.
It must not happen with the military market, he said.
Brownback also wants an investigation into whether Embraer, a strong competitor for sales of business jets with Wichita planemakers, is receiving subsidies from the Brazilian government.
"To have free trade work, you have to stand up for the rights we negotiated," Brownback said.
The reality is that the aviation sector is heavily competitive.
"This is going to be a fight," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can."
A spokesman for Tom Holland, Brownback's Democratic opponent, said Holland didn't need to wait on an advisory committee. "Tom Holland has already put forward concrete commitments to invest real dollars into training the Kansas work force and expanding research at our colleges and universities," spokesman Seth Bundy said in an e-mail.
"If Sam Brownback really wanted to help this industry, he shouldn't have voted to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out the Wall Street crooks who created this mess, and then voted against unemployment assistance for the thousands of laid off aviation workers in Kansas," he said.
Brownback's goal with his "Road Map for Kansas" is to grow the economy by putting in place an economic development strategic plan, pursuing new economic opportunities, reforming the tax code, establishing rural free-enterprise zones, exploring new opportunities for expanding agricultural exports and working with the private sector to expand the state's broadband network.