Robert Layton hit Wichita at exactly the wrong time, if you look at the economy and the city's budget.
Jobs disappeared, cutting into retail and commercial sales. As a result, the city's budget is locked into austerity mode through at least 2012.
But that doesn't mean Wichita's city manager has any regrets about leaving Iowa for Wichita almost two years ago.
"There isn't a day that I regret coming here," Layton said. "I've been excited about Wichita since I got here. It's a wonderful community."
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What's your take on the state of the Wichita economy?
"It's hard to tell if we've hit bottom. There's a lot of speculation that we have, but there's no doubt that we're still struggling.
"Things are starting to look better for aviation. That's our bread and butter, and if they stabilize it's really positive. The retail and commercial development sectors are struggling, as well as residential. Until we get some positive numbers from them, we still need to be cautious.
"Even if the economy improved tomorrow, we'd still have a tough 2012. Property values are lagging, and more than 60 percent of our budget comes from property tax. Our council has been clear that we're not going to raise the property tax, so we'll have to live with our base and any growth that happens."
The downtown redevelopment master plan will be rolled out late this month. What impact will the stagnant economy have on its short-term future?
"There's no doubt the economy presents some degree of impediment; however, it seems to me that with what's been done with the planning, all the talk about downtown, we're actually seeing some interest in new projects and redevelopment that we wouldn't see in other parts of the city.
"We're really bucking a trend downtown, I think, because of the attention and all the excitement. We've had a number of developers visit our downtown development group and talk to city planners, and we've already seen the Cargill project downtown.
"I'm optimistic we'll see several more announcements in the next year."
Public-private partnerships have come under increasing fire from some segments of the public. How open is the council to these partnerships as downtown redevelops, and what form do you see those partnerships taking?
"The city's role in public-private partnerships is evolving. Over the last 12 months or so, the council has made it clear that if it participates in a project, it will have to meet three criteria: Does it serve a public purpose consistent with the master plan, is there a financing gap that can be demonstrated to prove public involvement is necessary, and there must be a return of $1.20 for every dollar of public money invested.
"I think that what will happen is the council will be fairly conservative in their investments. We're still conscious that over the last 10 years, for every dollar we've spent we've only gotten a dollar of private investment. The council wants to see that change.
" (The city's downtown revitalization consultant) Goody Clancy is coming in with a framework to help us refine those issues and establish some criteria. They also want us to get more into the infrastructure business and back off from direct involvement in private business projects."
What will the council's priorities be for downtown redevelopment once the plan is introduced?
"I think the council remains fairly open on that. When the plan is formally presented to them, we'll talk priorities and engage the council in that discussion.
"We know that historically a lot of growth is driven from retail and commercial projects that count on rooftops. There will probably be some discussion of residential being a priority, but I don't want to presuppose what the council will identify as a priority."
How has Wichita measured up to your expectations when you left Iowa?
"I think people tend to forget the number of assets we have here. It's nice as an outsider to see so much potential here, but a great base of people here.
"I get the feeling we have some great days ahead if we can turn the corner and get people to work."