Business Perspectives

Wichita has a good start at drawing new business

As a site selection company, we focus primarily on corporate clients and their site location decisions. Whether manufacturing or back office, these types of projects bring wealth into a community, primarily because they sell outside the community. Therefore, communities compete intensely for these types of operations.

Site Selection Group also works with communities to analyze their competitiveness in the economic development process. We've been working on behalf of Wichita and Sedgwick County through the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition to complete a Competitive Analysis and Target Industry Strategy.

The SSG team looked at strengths and weaknesses, identified target sectors and assessed steps to enhance your ability to keep and attract new jobs. We talked to employers, business leaders, union officials and elected officials and discovered Wichita's significant strengths, especially the quality of your work force.

You have highly skilled workers who know how to design, engineer, test and build complex products, and best of all their skills are highly transferable to other industries.

You also have relatively low operating costs, including low cost of living, real estate and utilities. These factors combine to make you an attractive place for companies to invest.

We recommend a focus on these industry functions:

* Aerospace: Recognizing the depth and breadth of capacity you have, you should do everything you can to retain the aviation cluster, while focusing new recruitment on higher value added functions, such as engineering, research and design, product development and testing, and systems integration.

* Medical: The high growth and stability of this sector make it a good target for long-term diversification of the region, especially in light of your transferable labor skills, existing manufacturing base and resources such as the Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research.

* Alternative energy: Your geographic location and the industry's needs for installation of these generation devices and research and development, engineering, testing and manufacture of wind, solar and biofuel generation devices, are a good fit for your existing assets. Projected to be a high-growth industry over the next 20 years, alternative energy presents a good fit for Wichita because of your advantageous location and extensive manufacturing experience.

* Business and professional services: These white-collar, higher-skilled jobs include front- and back-office operations in divisional and regional headquarters and shared service centers that combine accounting, information technology and human resources and other services.

To make the most of your assets, you need to become more competitive. A dedicated, flexible, long-term funding stream will provide you with the tools necessary to enhance and maintain your competitiveness.

Further, you need shovel-ready sites. You need everyone on board to agree upon a model to design, construct, oversee and manage these sites.

And, everyone needs to be at the table. You have a lot to build on, and now you need to organize your team for success.

We've recommended community-wide initiatives that should not be left to GWEDC alone. Keep your sales force out selling. However, your community needs to move quickly to address these issues. Companies are preparing now to emerge from this recession, and those communities that are ready, will win.

We're seeing activity increase, and companies move faster than ever before. You have a lot to sell. We are encouraging you to decide at what level you want to compete, and then figure out how you will get it done.