Monday’s Air Capital Supplier Summit may be worth millions of dollars in orders for Wichita-area aviation companies.
The event, a first for Wichita, brought together Airbus officials and Wichita-area suppliers. Airbus said it wants to double the $12 billion it spends with U.S. suppliers over the next 10 years.
The response to Monday’s summit was so big that Airbus said it would hold a second summit somewhere in Kansas soon. A location and time have not been set.
More than 200 representatives of 114 suppliers gathered at the National Center for Aviation Training in east Wichita for the event. There, they received information about how to do business with Airbus, maintain supply chain integrity and understand their tier, before meeting face-to-face with Airbus representatives.
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Currently, there are more than 450 Kansas companies involved in the aerospace industry, employing more than 32,000 people.
The biggest is Spirit AeroSystems, one of the co-sponsors of Monday’s summit and Wichita’s largest private employer. Spirit also is an Airbus supplier.
The summit is a “significant event,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, who addressed those attending the event.
“What I think this conference supplies is hope.”
The aim of the summit, Moran said, is to ensure that as Airbus expands its supplier network in the U.S., it looks toward Kansas.
“In Kansas, we build world-class airplanes, and we build them very well,” Moran said.
Airbus works with a number of suppliers in Kansas, said Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas, who also attended Monday’s event.
“We think that’s just the start,” he said.
McArtor said he was impressed with Monday’s turnout and with the talent, culture and commitment the company sees in Kansas.
“Airbus depends on U.S. companies more than we depend on any country in the world to help us build our airplanes,” McArtor said.
“I want Kansas to have a part in that.”
The first step, he said, is to open a dialogue with suppliers at the summit.
Airbus is looking for suppliers with a variety of capabilities, McArtor said.
“We’re looking for existing suppliers who have not yet been qualified (to do work for Airbus) and would like to be,” McArtor said.
Airbus is also looking for companies that don’t currently do aviation work but want to. And it’s looking for companies that may have developed technology that is not quite ready for market.
Airbus also wants to acquire companies, particularly those in the services business. It is also interested in businesses involved in air traffic control, component repair and electronics repair.
Airbus has been happy in Wichita, where it has operated its largest engineering center outside Europe for the past 10 years, McArtor said.
“We’re pleased to be here,” he said. “It’s been a great success for us.”