Seeking to draw more military and NASA work to Kansas, Rep. Roger Marshall brought an influential committee chairman to Wichita State University’s innovation and aviation campuses on Monday.
Marshall is a member of the U.S. House Science Space and Technology Committee that oversees about $220 million in federal research funding.
He invited the committee chairman, Lamar Smith of Texas, to WSU to tour its labs and research facilities with an eye toward pitching Wichita as a place where the government could get a lot of bang for its research bucks.
“To improve the economy, a lot is going to come through technology, and I think you guys are cutting edge here,” said Marshall, R-Great Bend. “What you have going on here at Wichita State I think is the coolest, neatest example of what we can do with innovation and the research dollars we’re spending.”
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While Wichita is well known for its contributions to passenger and general aviation, Marshall is hoping that can be expanded to include more defense and space work.
WSU does $39 million a year in aerospace research work, $29 million of which is for private industry, said John Tomblin, WSU’s vice president for research and technology transfer.
That makes WSU No. 1 in the nation for private industry research but a distant fourth overall when government research is included.
Marshall said he hopes to change that.
“I think there’s so many things in aeronautical engineering that we do here at Wichita State that spills over into NASA projects as well,” Marshall said. “Certainly President Trump is wanting more money budgeted toward NASA on the government side.”
Smith seemed receptive to the message that Wichita is a good place to do space business.
He said WSU research can play a large role as space development becomes increasingly privatized, with the private sector dominating near-Earth orbit and NASA leading research and exploration of deeper space.
It was Smith’s first visit to Wichita, although he said he has an affinity for the city because he learned to fly in a Wichita-built Cessna 150.
Wichita “is the aerospace capital of the United States, as far as I’m concerned,” Smith said.