Business Q & A

July 28, 2013

A conversation with … Debra Teufel

Debra Teufel understands the need for creating jobs on a personal level.

Debra Teufel understands the need for creating jobs on a personal level.

Teufel’s husband, David, was laid off when the Binney & Smith plant in Winfield closed in 1997. So he got a job at Boeing. He was laid off in 1999, recalled, and laid off again a few years later.

A passion for economic development, as well as an approachable manner and deep knowledge, are why Teufel is vice president of business development for the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. That means she spends her day talking directly with existing companies about how she can help them stay or expand, as well as assemble the proposals when companies come knocking.

“It really makes you so passionate for what you do and that we as a community and state have to pull together to create jobs because it matters to people,” she said.

She had worked in economic development in Cowley and Sumner counties, and came to the GWEDC in 2008. Most recently she helped land the expansion of Triumph Aerospace Systems, which plans to add 100 jobs.

A graduate of Southwestern College, she and David have four children, and live in Arkansas City.

What’s been the biggest hurdle for the GWEDC in recent years?

Even though we’ve gone through a downturn, we haven’t been sitting on a lot of vacant real estate in Wichita. There are some properties on the market today different than three years ago, but for the most part in 2008-2012 when we would get a large building request, often there wasn’t much in our inventory. … And we just haven’t had a lot of speculative building going on.

Can’t you wait until you’ve got a prospect to build?

There was a time when we would say: “We don’t have a 100,000-square-foot building today, but we would sure build it for you if you come.” But we are seeing even less appetite from the site selection community for that kind of pitch because their client doesn’t have time.

What new inventory have you gained in recent years?

Boeing is exiting its facility, so we’ve got some office buildings on the market. We have the hangars there. The Hayes building on North I-135 is available now. That’s 450,000 square feet that is vacant. In addition, we have been working really closely with communities that were sitting on land but not actively developing it. Bel Aire has come a long way in the last five years in getting their product ready for the market. Now they have buildings going up. Derby has developed an industrial park in cooperation with a developer and Clearwater has some land that they are actively developing.

What’s the status of the Boeing site?

CBRE out Kansas City, David Hinchman, is the broker on that property. We are in weekly, if not daily, contact with David Hinchman and the Boeing team about their real estate. The office complex totals just over 600,000 square feet, over three buildings, roughly 100,000-, 200,000- and 300,000-square-foot buildings. Those sit on an 85-acre site on the west side of Oliver. Along with that there is a lake on the back side of one of those buildings. It is a very unique property. It’s beautiful. They are very marketable for the right opportunity and we just have to find those opportunities and get them interested in Wichita.

On the other side of the street are the hangars. That is about a 300-acre site in total. It backs up to McConnell Air Force Base and whomever the future tenant is would need to be a good neighbor to the base. They need to be someone who could have a cooperation agreement on the runway. There are unique challenges with the utilities because they are not segregated from this side of the street and that side of the street, so there is some segregation that would have to happen. And several hundred thousand square feet of hangar right in the middle of that site is occupied by Spirit AeroSystems where they complete the forward fuselage for the 787 … so, it’s a unique property because you’ve got all these hangars with a tenant in the middle of them. So you’ve got to have a strong appetite for cooperation.

Will Boeing find a single buyer?

Their first preference is to find a buyer for the whole property. They realistically know there may be multiple users that could occupy that site. The possibility of marketing the office campus as a whole is unrealistic. They will have to break it up and lease or sell it to multiple tenants. I don’t know of a company out there that wants to buy 600,000 square feet in multiple properties. I haven’t found that project, yet. I would be very excited if I did.

What would you tell a developer about building a speculative industrial building today?

We just had a request come in the door yesterday for a project that would love to have 100,000 square feet, 200,000 would be even better, but would settle for 60,000 square feet. If we have 100,000 square feet with 26-, 28-foot ceiling heights that is very marketable today.

What kinds of companies do you see coming to Wichita in the near future?

We are definitely looking to diversify within aerospace, so we feel there are some great opportunities to bring more engineering operations here for a whole lot of reasons: One, the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) out there are really looking to engineering partners to be development partners. If we can get in front of those opportunities and help make companies across the globe realize that we have the best aerospace engineering talent right here in Wichita and we have more of it and they are trained and ready to go, that should be a really easy sell. I would forecast that you would see more activity in that area.

What would those operations look like?

They may staff up 50 to 100 engineers to design a project that one of the OEMs would have. … Those kind of people would be fabulous for the Boeing office space or the office space downtown.

How good a year do you see 2013 being?

We will have a better year in the coming year. … We have come out of some really rough times. But deal flow didn’t slow down, it was more about having enough product and the right product.

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