U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo said today that he and the Kansas congressional delegation will continue to press Boeing on its decision to close the Wichita plant and move work on the KC-46A tanker planned for here elsewhere.
Boeing should “live up to promises made to the Air Force and the community,” Pompeo said.
While Pompeo said there’s no binding contract with Boeing, “It’s a notion of fair dealing and honesty.’’
Pompeo said he would like to know how the contract with the Air Force was worded in terms of Boeing’s commitment to Wichita.
On Wednesday, Boeing announced that the Wichita plant will close by the end of 2013. The work on current projects will move to Oklahoma City and San Antonio. The tanker work will move to Puget Sound, Wash.
The closure affects 2,160 workers, some of whom will be offered jobs at other facilities, Boeing said. The closure will end a relationship between Boeing and the city that began in 1927.
For years, the Kansas delegation lobbied for Boeing as it competed for the tanker contract, Pompeo said. In February, Boeing was awarded the contract over EADS, the parent company of Airbus.
Boeing said at the time that Wichita would become a finishing center for the tankers, Pompeo said. That was expected to bring several hundred jobs to the plant.
“My number one goal is to do everything we can to get the Boeing company to make good on the commitment to put those jobs here,” he said.
An Air Force spokesman contacted late today declined comment on details of the tanker contract.
“It’s our goal to make sure the Boeing company will be delivering its first aircraft by 2017,” said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Wesley Miller
Boeing Vice President Mark Bass said Wednesday that the company began studying the Wichita facility in the summer of 2011. The study was completed in November and a decision made Dec. 30 to close the site.
“As s result of the study Boeing made the difficult decision to close the Wichita facility,” Boeing spokesman Jarrod Bartlett said today.
Closing the plant is necessary because the business climate has changed, Boeing officials said. Defense budgets are declining, current work is winding down or has ended at the plant, and new work has not materialized. With less work at the sprawling site in south Wichita, overhead costs have skyrocketed, officials said.
As an example, six years ago, after Boeing spun off its commercial aircraft division, the company was left with about 3,800 employees. Employment has declined more than 40 percent since then.
After the sale of the division, which became Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing has relied strictly on military work. Before, it could shift workers between commercial and military programs as the markets rose and fell.
Regardless of the decision to close the plant, tanker work will be performed in Kansas, Bartlett said. There are 24 suppliers that will do work on the program.
In addition, Bartlett said that Kansas remains the fourth-largest state in Boeing’s supplier network through commercial and defense work with approximately 475 suppliers.
Pompeo said he think Boeing has been thinking about closing the Wichita operations for a long time. So it should have been up front about it during negotiations on the tanker contract.
“This decision had to have been in the works for a much larger period,” Pompeo said. “This is a major facility. This has major implications for the company. This has major implications for security” because it performs military work, including work on Air Force One.
Boeing knew the cost of its overhead and labor at the time it bid on the tanker contract, he said.
“They knew full well their costs,” Pompeo said. “Now to claim changed circumstances”