Mayor Carl Brewer is leading a Wichita delegation on a five-city business development trip to China, where one of the first stops is a meeting with the potential buyer of Hawker Beechcraft.
“This is for us to get a feel for what’s going on – what they’re thinking,” Brewer said of the meeting with Superior Aviation Beijing.
City, state, economic development, trade and business leaders also will focus on building business relationships in the general aviation industry and re-establishing Wichita’s sister city relationship with Kaifeng, China.
Brewer and the Wichita business delegation, along with a Hawker Beechcraft representative, will meet with Superior Aviation Beijing chairman Cheng Shenzong on Monday.
“It’s important for us, for the lives of 4,000-some employees that we’re paying attention and know what’s going on,” Brewer said. “We’re going to the highest level, so we should have a pretty good idea” of the plan.
He wants to ask Shenzong whether he will keep the work and employees in Wichita, should the deal go through.
“We want all the jobs and all the work,” Brewer said of the city’s position. “That’s simple.”
Brewer also wants to accentuate the reasons why the work should stay in Wichita, he said.
“I can talk about our training program. I can talk about NIAR (the National Institute for Aviation Research), and I can talk about our investment and the state’s investment (in Hawker Beechcraft),” Brewer said.
The city, county and state forged a $45 million incentive package in late 2010 to keep Hawker Beechcraft from leaving Wichita.
Superior signed an initial agreement in July to buy Hawker Beechcraft for $1.79 billion. The agreement won’t include the company’s defense business.
Hawker Beechcraft filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May.
The deal is subject to reaching a final agreement, approval by the federal government and to an auction proceeding.
Superior Aviation is 60 percent owned by Shenzong and 40 percent owned by the Beijing municipal government, according to reports.
The Wichita group also hopes to meet with Beijing city officials, although that’s not yet been finalized.
If they don’t like what they hear in the meetings, Brewer said, it will give the city, county and state time to be proactive and formulate plans.
It’s about building relationships, said Karyn Page, president and CEO of Kansas Global Trade Services, who is making the trip.
The mission is to establish partner relationships, evaluate business opportunities and identify export opportunities to help companies significantly expand into the Chinese market.
It will be a hard-working trip, Page said.
“We plan on working 20-hour days,” she said.
The trip is being funded by a Small Business Administration grant, but some members are paying their own way.
The delegates will highlight Wichita’s aircraft manufacturers and the hundreds of subcontractors that produce aircraft parts and airframe structures and those who provide aircraft services, such as training, engineering and consulting.
“We’re going to really try to look at what’s going on with general aviation and seek those business development opportunities,” Page said.
“China has the cash,” Page said. “And we have the best products.”
Exports are important to Wichita and the state.
According to the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit public policy organization, Wichita is the country’s most export-driven metropolitan area, Page said.
“Our GMP, Gross Metro Product, is more driven by exports than any other city in the nation,” she said.
Wichita represents 50 percent of the state’s exports, with aviation the largest export, followed by processed food.
Brewer and the team will leave Friday morning.
The delegation will meet with officers in the U.S. Foreign Commercial Services at the Embassy to learn about general aviation in China and its policies, regulations, challenges and opportunities, according to trip information.
Delegation members will host a luncheon, co-sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China, in an industry forum with members of China’s aviation industry.
They plan to network, share information, promote Wichita as the Air Capital and generate trade leads.
They will then visit Shangjie Airport in Zhengzhou, where the city’s five-year plan includes developing a general aviation industry from scratch.
They also will meet with city and top government leaders of Zhengzhou. And they will participate in a general aviation roundtable discussion.
The 12-day trip also will focus on re-establishing the city’s three-decade sister city relationship with Kaifeng, China.
The program, originally established in 1944 with Orleans, France, according to the sister cities website, emphasizes a variety of exchanges – diplomatic, cultural, educational, professional, tourism and economic.
Thom Rosenberg, a Wichita allergist, and his wife, Adrienne, are heading the sister cities delegation as volunteers, along with Brewer.
The goal of the trip is to re-establish a cultural and educational exchange with the city, the Rosenbergs said, preferably forging exchange opportunities for Wichita junior high and high school students.
“We have to establish parameters and agreements of what we’d like to do with this relationship and they have to do the same,” Brewer said.
“So at that point, Dr. Rosenberg will be presenting the delegation and our relationship with them, the things we want to see. It has to be a give and take, not just the city of Wichita giving.”
“I’m there to recommit us, but we want a recommitment from them,” Rosenberg said.
Adrienne Rosenberg said Kaifeng officials have expressed preliminary interest in the exchange program.
“We’re not there to commit to anything, but we want to explore the possibilities of this exchange,” she said. “We think it’s very important for our children in this community and in every community to be aware of the culture of the world.”
Today, the Wichita sister cities program has relationships with Orleans; Tlalnepantla, Mexico; Cancun, Mexico; and Kaifeng. Each city is represented by its own committee.