Airbus may add Wichita jobs

Bill Greer, head of Airbus' North America Engineering in Wichita, is working to secure additional work for the office, a move that could mean another 100 engineering jobs in Wichita.

Greer wants to expand in the Old Town area, near the Airbus office at 238 N. Mead. Specifically, he would like to lease space at the former Kansas Sports Hall of Fame building across the street.

The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame is moving to the Wichita Boathouse, and the city-owned building is for sale.

Greer has asked Old Town developer Dave Burk if he could buy the building and lease the space to Airbus.

Burk has put in a proposal for the building but said it's too early to determine if it will be successful.

Airbus' expansion would be important for the city, Burk said.

"Those are all high-paying jobs," he said.

The city of Wichita listed the hall of fame building with J.P. Weigand & Sons on Sept. 15, said John Philbrick, the city's property manager. It is asking $1.75 million.

There's been quite a bit of response from the listing, said Jerry Gray, head of Weigand's commercial real estate division.

"We have had some serious interest in it," Gray said.

Burk is the only one so far to submit an offer, Gray said.

The city bought the 26,000-square-foot building for $600,000 in 2003, Philbrick said.

It also significantly renovated the building with new heating and air conditioning, elevators and restrooms, and made it wheelchair accessible, Gray said.

"They did a nice job with it," he said.

The space would need quite a bit of remodeling to turn it into offices, Gray said.

A sale will need approval by the Wichita City Council, he said.

Airbus currently employs about 220 in Wichita and has space for about 20 more.

The additional engineering work is a new business opportunity for the Wichita office, Greer said. He did not want to release the specifics of the work, although he said it is not related to a program to replace aerial refueling tankers.

"I want to furnish them out of Wichita," Greer said. "If I can do it quickly, I can get people that are out of work."

To secure the work with Airbus, Greer must present the company with a business plan. Part of that plan is where the work would be done and the charges associated with it.

"It will all come together quickly, I hope," he said. If it doesn't, the work will likely go someplace else.

Airbus is looking at a number of possibilities for the work, said spokeswoman Mary Ann Greczyn.

"It has always been part of our long-term planning to grow our Wichita operations," she said"... (But) nothing is set in concrete yet."