Wichita hosting German visitors for aviation tour

10/31/2013 10:17 AM

08/08/2014 10:19 AM

A delegation of 26 German business people, university officials and political leaders participated in a business “matchmaking” event Thursday at the National Center for Aviation Training in northeast Wichita.

The contingent from Bremen, Germany, was at NCAT as part of a two-day visit to Wichita, primarily to learn more about the city’s aviation cluster.

After a tour Thursday morning of Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus’ Old Town offices and presentations and tours at NCAT, the contingent spent about an hour meeting with representatives from 16 Wichita aviation suppliers and manufacturers in a sort of speed-dating fashion.

Martin Gunthner, Bremen’s minister of economic affairs, labor and ports, said the Germans’ visit came about from a meeting with Gov. Sam Brownback at the Paris Air Show, who extended an invitation to Gunthner to visit Wichita.

“There are possibilities for Bremen and Wichita to work together, and to learn about each other,” Gunthner said. “I think we have a lot of opportunities.”

Gunthner said Bremen, a port city in northwestern Germany with a population of 600,000, has some commonality with Wichita. Specifically, Bremen boasts more than140 companies in the aerospace industry that employ more than 12,000 people, he said. Bremen is also where Airbus has a factory that manufactures wings for Airbus A320, A340 and A350 airliners. Airbus also has a wing design center in Wichita.

Don Smith, senior manager at Capps Manufacturing, said his company would be remiss not to participate in the matchmaking event.

“It’s all about opportunities,” Smith said. “We have a large presence in the U.S. in our niche (of metal forming) … and our reach extends not only throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but also Asia. We don’t have as much of a European presence as we’d like.

“We’re hoping that some doors can open.”

Debra Teufel, vice president of business development for the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, which put on the matchmaking event, said the visit of the German contingent is a chance to “open doors and build connections.”

“All those things can lead to growth in jobs and our economy, which is our mission,” she said.

Teufel added that a visit by “a delegation of this size doesn’t come along very often.”

On Friday, the delegation will tour JR Custom Metals and Cessna Aircraft Co. Their visit will end following a meeting and luncheon with Brownback at Mid-Continent Airport.

Gunthner said from Wichita, the group will travel to Atlanta to attend a German American Chamber of Commerce event.

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