The Boeing tanker win is a big boost for Wichita's economy and its battered morale — but just how big a win remains a little vague.
The $35 billion contract, which Boeing won Thursday, is one of the largest military contracts in history, but for now Boeing isn't going beyond the economic impact numbers it used in April when it was trying to build a political case for the tanker.
Boeing Wichita will be the finishing center for the tanker, which is based on a 767 commercial airliner. Spirit AeroSystems is a major supplier for the plane.
Boeing estimated the tanker could create and maintain about 7,500 jobs of all types in Kansas and generate an annual economic impact of $388 million.
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"This has ramifications throughout our entire Kansas economy," Rep. Mike Pompeo said Friday during a news conference at Boeing Wichita. "You won't be able to count all the car dealers who will benefit."
Boeing couldn't be more specific on numbers because of "issues that are still unresolved" on the contract, Gov. Sam Brownback said at the news conference.
But, Brownback said, Boeing already has started to hire engineers for the design work.
Don McGinty, owner of McGinty Machine, one of the subcontractors that will work on the tanker, said Friday he expects to add five to 15 workers to his 25-member work force. And the company will spend money on metal, on cutters, on crates, on office supplies.
That likely will start in two years when production gets under way.
The test flight is scheduled for 2015, and delivery of the first 18 tankers is set for 2017.
But more than additional business, the contract means steady work in a notoriously up-and-down industry, McGinty said.
"What this gives us is a foundation that we can work off of," he said. "When we do projections, we know we have something out there."
1 plus 3.42
Each job at an aircraft manufacturing plant, such as Boeing or Cessna, creates 3.42 additional jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The calculation for job creation for aircraft jobs runs like this:
If 1,000 jobs were to be created at Boeing Wichita, 1,650 more jobs would be created at subcontractors such as Spirit AeroSystems or McGinty Machine, and 1,770 more jobs would be created at the restaurants, doctors' offices and lawn maintenance services that the workers use.
The additional employment created is called the multiplier effect.
"Aircraft manufacturing has the largest multiplier of any industry in Wichita," said Jeremy Hill, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University.
But, Hill cautioned, the impact likely won't be quite as powerful as that calculation first makes it appear.
It's unknown — at least to most observers — how much work will be handled by Boeing and how much will go to subcontractors.
It's also unknown whether those subcontractors will be in Wichita or elsewhere around the world. If a subcontract goes to a company in Dallas, that city would see most of the benefit.
It's also unclear, at this point, how many of the Boeing jobs devoted to the contract already exist and are simply being switched over from programs being wound down.
Beyond the economic impact, there has been a powerful community impact.
The Boeing contract signals in a clear way that better times are ahead, said Steve Rooney, president of the Machinists union District 70.
"We've got a lot of guys still out of work, and this will give them some hope that they may one day go back to work," Rooney said.
The union worked closely with the company and area representatives to push Boeing's bid.
And in the broader community, Thursday's announcement has created a sense of excitement that things are going to start picking up.
Much of Wichita has been stuck in gloom since late 2008, when local companies started announcing layoffs that now total in the thousands.
Mayor Carl Brewer said the deal to add work at Bombardier Learjet and keep Hawker Beechcraft last year were encouraging, but this is even stronger.
"I think people are really starting to believe 'Oh, my God, we really are going to get out of this recession,' " he said.
Sheryl Hiebert, partner with the accounting firm Hiebert and Decker, is experiencing it already among her clients, some of whom are Boeing retirees.
"Morale is better; I can already feel it," she said. "I know the effect on the economy won't be felt today, or tomorrow or next week, but it will come. It changes the outlook for the economy."