Wichitans staying put in this recession

As Wichita's economy tumbled in 2001 and 2002, moving vans left Wichita every day carrying talented workers and professionals to Texas, Nevada and elsewhere. That isn't happening now.

In 2009, surveys by two national moving companies show that they moved nearly the same amount of people into the state as out.

The Allied Van Lines survey showed that it moved 710 shipments into Kansas and 788 out.

A similar survey by United Van Lines showed it had moved 1,986 shipments into Wichita in 2009 and moved 1,706 out.

Population growth is tied to economic growth. Population growth in Sedgwick County virtually stopped between 2002 and 2004 at 460,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

It picked up in 2004, and between 2006 and 2008, Sedgwick County gained 14,000 people, or 1.5 percent growth per year.

But there is a difference in the two recessions, said Brian Crowe, general manager for Thomas Transfer and Storage, the Wichita agent for United Van Lines.

Except for a healthy military business, the number of moves into and out of Kansas is down from earlier years.

In other words, he said, locals are largely staying put during this recession.

The difference, Crowe said, is that the last recession was pretty mild outside Wichita. There were jobs to be had in more prosperous areas for people not willing to wait two or three years for manufacturers to hire again.

"At that time, people were moving out of town like mad," Crowe said. "Our business actually increased because of the number of people leaving."

This time, even though Wichita is again in deep recession, Crowe said, it's better off than much of the U.S. The Wichita unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, while the national rate is 10 percent.

Britt King, president of King's Moving and Storage, which represents Allied and North American van lines, agreed.

People were still pouring into Wichita in early 2008 as the rest of the country settled into recession, he said.

But that stopped as manufacturers started laying off. He said his business was down for the year, although it appears to be picking up again.

"Wichita was hurt by places such as Las Vegas and Phoenix last time," he said. "That's not really an option this time."