The new year of 2014 promises to be full of progress and new opportunities for the City of Wichita. We’ve lived through challenges in the past, but our spirit is unbroken and our outlook is optimistic.
Working together through the ACT-ICT community meetings and the multiple other ways residents are being engaged, we will determine the policy and priorities that will shape our community for decades to come.
The economic future for Wichita is promising. We weathered the recession and are seeing renewed economic growth. Low and stable tax rates, sound economic development policies, a well-trained workforce and a safe, affordable and livable community to raise a family all make our city attractive to business.
The aircraft industry is still recovering, but its long-term prospects are improving. Bombardier is expanding facilities, and Spirit AeroSystems and other planemakers are creating more jobs. Close ties are being established with developing Chinese markets.
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Other Wichita businesses are growing, too. Wesley Medical Center is investing millions. A new call center with more than 900 new jobs is locating in Wichita.
Wichita residents continue to enjoy short and safe commutes. To ensure this continues, the new west side crossing is soaring over the floodway and will continue to reduce travel times for motorists. Later this year, construction is expected to begin on a Kellogg and Webb Road interchange, eventually relieving congestion at one of the city’s busiest bottlenecks.
Work should also start on new interchanges along K-96, at Hoover Road and at Greenwich Road. With the construction of the new interchange, development should begin soon on a new $90 million commercial and tourism district on Greenwich near K-96. This will not only provide entertainment and shopping opportunities for residents but will inject tourism dollars and attract visitors into our community.
Wichita-area residents will continue to enjoy affordable airfares, largely due to the introduction of Southwest Airlines into the local market. Airfares actually dropped about 4 percent last year and are lower than fares at Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Air travelers in 2014 can watch a beautiful new terminal building nearing completion, with the opening anticipated in March 2015.
Downtown continues to grow, with many new developments in recent years. In 2014, the Value Place Apartments and River Vista projects will rise along the river. Exchange Place and Corner 365 are other new projects in 2014, and the recent purchase of Union Station bodes well for redevelopment in an area that will better connect Old Town and the Intrust Bank Arena area.
This year promises to be one in which the future of Wichita, possibly for decades to come, will be shaped. How much should the city invest in new or expanded infrastructure? What level of transit service should be provided? What recreational opportunities should be available in our community? What city services are most important? How will the city continue to generate economic growth?
All of these questions require community input and dialogue. We know inclusion and feedback make our community stronger. Better government is possible through partnerships with neighborhood groups, home owner associations, business and social service organizations.
I urge you to get involved, consider the issues, become informed and make your voices heard as we consider a new city strategic plan, our 2015 operating budget, our 10-year capital improvements plan and our City/County Comprehensive Plan.
Stay engaged or get involved in 2014 and help shape our community discussion. Watch our community progress as jobs are created, freeways are improved, our new airport terminal nears completion and downtown continues to develop. Be proud of Wichita State University and the excellence it brings as a community partner. But most importantly, help us build a better Wichita for our children and grandchildren.