I join many Kansans who are surprised and disappointed by the revelation that Boeing is studying the potential closure of its Wichita defense facility.
For most of the past century, the Boeing name has been synonymous with our world’s Air Capital, Wichita. This mutually beneficial partnership between Boeing and Kansas was evident during the past decade as the tanker battle was waged in the halls of Congress and the Pentagon. Standing by Boeing as one of its greatest allies in this fight were the people of Kansas. A win for Boeing, we were told by Boeing throughout the process, would bring thousands of jobs to the state, including hundreds of Boeing jobs associated with the finishing work on the new tankers.
To quote a Boeing press release from last year, “Kansas will benefit from approximately 7,500 jobs and an estimated $388 million in annual economic impact if the Boeing NewGen Tanker is selected as the U.S. Air Force’s next aerial refueling aircraft. Boeing employees working at the Wichita, Kan., site will play an important role in modifying commercial 767 airplanes into NewGen military tankers if the company is selected for the contract. This is highly skilled work that Boeing workers in Kansas know well, having performed similar modifications in recent years on eight 767 tankers for Japan and Italy.”
When the Air Force reached a decision this year to award the tanker contract to Boeing, Kansans who worked so hard during the competition celebrated the news — from workers, to suppliers, to officials past and present at the city, county, state and federal levels, including the current congressional delegation, as well as Gov. Sam Brownback and former Rep. Todd Tiahrt.
Today that joy has turned to dismay as Kansans question whether Boeing will honor its commitment to jobs. While I understand the pressures facing U.S. businesses during the past several years, I am deeply troubled by the notion that a promise made is not a promise kept. A company so much a part of the Wichita community for 80 years should live up to its pledge to the community. As Boeing reviews the Wichita facility, I ask that Boeing president and James McNerney come to Wichita to work with state and local officials and employees on fulfilling Boeing’s commitment to Kansans.
I hope he will agree that the relationship between Boeing and Wichita’s talented workforce, unbeatable suppliers and supportive community is worth preserving.