The coming year looks to be a really good one for the Wichita area, with an increasing sense of possibility and optimism, even though the metro area’s economic and job growth is actually expected to be fairly tepid.
The good news is that if the city doesn’t finally surpass its 2007 economic peak this year, it will almost certainly do so in 2017. Less likely is setting a record for jobs: The city’s peak in 2008 is still about 10,000 jobs away.
The most recent prediction by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research in October called for a gain of about 2,500 jobs, although it expects to release an update next week.
One of the area’s most important developments in the coming year is the stabilization, and perhaps growth, of the city’s general aviation companies, which have been shutting down aircraft lines, consolidating and laying off workers for seven years. Also critical will be the ramping up of 737 fuselage production at Spirit AeroSystems.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
Other big developments are the accelerating redevelopment of downtown – more than $500 million has been invested there since 2010 – the expansion of Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus, the beginnings of a revival in the state’s oil and gas industry, interest from outside investors and developers, and the general overall growth in the economy.
Only the state’s agriculture sector remains deeply troubled, despite record harvests in 2016.
All that is leading to a growing sense of optimism and possibility in the city, said Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell.
He said he, along with many others, will push the new Trump administration to reinstate the accelerated tax credits for general aviation purchases to spur jet purchases. But, unlike past cycles, the recovery is about more than just riding the wave of the aircraft industry.
“l just see ’17 as the best year we’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “We have momentum.
“When private developers come to Wichita, they’re pretty calculating about taking risks, and when they want to put millions of dollars here, that says volumes about Wichita’s direction.”