Wichita could finally exhale Tuesday upon learning that a $45 million incentives deal would keep Hawker Beechcraft and at least 4,000 jobs in its hometown for another decade. It was a wonderful surprise, especially as the community gets ready to welcome Christmas and a new year.
The state, county and city would provide $35 million in research and development funds, and the state would provide another $10 million in training funds. In exchange, Hawker pledges to keep its headquarters and all its current product lines in Wichita and maintain at least 4,000 employees through 2020. The incentives include $2.5 million each from Wichita and Sedgwick County.
The deal wisely includes provisions to hold the company accountable if its local employment drops below 4,000. The incentives will be paid out of income-tax withholding money of Hawker employees.
Congratulations to all those who crafted the agreement, which underscores what the company means to the community and Kansas and what Wichita’s aviation work force and cluster of suppliers and research and training facilities still mean to the company.
Gov. Mark Parkinson, for one, has been unparalleled among governors in giving Wichita and its aviation industry his attention. The Wichita native has worked with Hawker and union officials for months and, to his credit, didn’t take union workers’ “no” contract vote in October as the last word. Now, he has brought a deal in under the wire of his 20-month term.
Though Hawker’s fate hasn’t been left to Gov.-elect Sam Brownback to handle after all, his comments Tuesday raised hopes that he will be as committed as Parkinson to the ongoing fight to retain Wichita’s planemakers. Brownback called the agreement “great news” and said its implementation would be a priority of his administration.
The Wichita City Council, led by Mayor Carl Brewer, left no doubt about its support for the deal, unanimously endorsing the city’s $2.5 million share Tuesday.
Credit also goes to Sedgwick County, including County Commission Chairman Karl Peterjohn (usually no fan of economic development gambits), for agreeing to its own $2.5 million commitment.
To those in Louisiana who thought Hawker’s jobs would be easy prey: Go find another company and industry to poach. Hawker Beechcraft is staying put, in the city where it first took flight 78 years ago.
And as an enthusiastic Brewer said at the close of Tuesday’s Wichita City Council meeting, “a special Merry Christmas to the Hawker Beechcraft workers.”