Carrie Rengers

Wichita is finalist to land French company’s two sites

Could Hutchinson, a company based in France, join Airbus with a site at Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus? Mayor Jeff Longwell is traveling to France next week in an effort to lure the business.
Could Hutchinson, a company based in France, join Airbus with a site at Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus? Mayor Jeff Longwell is traveling to France next week in an effort to lure the business. The Wichita Eagle

A French company called Hutchinson, just like the Kansas city, is looking to add operations in the United States and has narrowed its choices to Wichita and Grand Rapids, Mich.

“We think we can build a great case that Wichita’s the best city to grow their worldwide … operations in,” says Mayor Jeff Longwell.

He and a group of Wichitans are traveling to France next week to meet Hutchinson officials over dinner in Paris and tour some of the company’s nearby operations.

“The reality is, this is an incredibly important mission,” Longwell says.

He’s not sure how many jobs the company could bring, but it could be a significant number at two sites.

Hutchinson is an international company that manufactures automotive and aviation products, but automotive is the bigger focus.

Efforts to reach the company were unsuccessful.

Longwell says Wichita’s strength is in advanced engineering and materials.

He says his understanding is the company’s interest started through Wichita State University.

“We have a reputation for kicking out top-notch engineers, and they need engineers in their process,” Longwell says.

He says Hutchinson is interested in engineering and manufacturing and could have one site in a new building at WSU’s Innovation Campus and a second somewhere else in the city.

Longwell says Hutchinson is not much different from Koch Industries or Cargill’s protein division, which he says have found Wichita to be a convenient place to do business.

“They have found it advantageous to grow and operate those companies out of Wichita, Kansas.”

Longwell says there are many pluses on Wichita’s side, such as a skilled work force, quality of life, “great educational institutions” and “a new airport to fly in and out of.”

He says it’s also helpful that Kansas City is so focused on the automotive industry.

“We’re a pretty easy commute.”

Longwell says Hutchinson matches perfectly with the kinds of deals included in the Wichita area’s Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth.

“These are the ones that we want to put a lot of effort into.”

The trip, which is Sept. 20 to 29, coincides with a visit to Orleans, France, which is Wichita’s Sister City.

“This is a Sister City trip that just was able to evolve into an economic development trip kind of by chance,” Longwell says. “We believe that potentially we’re the only city that’s going to see them.”

Longwell acknowledges that “Grand Rapids is more of an automotive town than we are, but we think we can overcome that.”

He says it doesn’t help having the news out, but Longwell says that won’t stop him.

“We can even overcome … if Wichita Eagle reporters hand Grand Rapids our playbook,” he says. “We still think we can win.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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