Economic development is a key topic for the Board of County Commissioners and for me in particular. Right now we have a lot of momentum to make our community a more attractive place for people and businesses.
We know there are many facets to economic development. In Sedgwick County, we are focusing on three main areas to promote economic development: workforce development, innovative and collaborative initiatives, and infrastructure support.
A number of years ago, Sedgwick County had the foresight to invest in the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) and create development opportunities for local talent. NCAT was created to help with the demand for skilled employees. Through NCAT and partnerships with Wichita State University and the newly named WSU Tech, Sedgwick County has been able to actualize on that talent and support local industries.
Having a highly skilled workforce – people who are trained and qualified – is critical to the success not only of our major industries but of the county and region as a whole. Sedgwick County has a 3.4 percent unemployment rate as of December 2017. This is great news, but it also means that we need to focus on attracting new people and retaining our current workforce.
Traditional governmental incentives are a thing of the past. There are no more blank checks from Sedgwick County for businesses. We have limited resources and are charged with ensuring that they go to necessary and useful community services. The board and I prefer finding new ways of doing business; we look for innovative ideas and ways to collaborate to achieve one common goal.
For example, Spirit AeroSystems recently announced a major project that will bring in 1,000 new jobs. Due to their $1 billion capital investment to expand its imprint in Sedgwick County and Wichita, we chose to invest in the infrastructure needed to support this endeavor.
One of the main ways for local governments to increase economic development in the area is through infrastructure and improving the quality of life here. Businesses and our economy cannot succeed without adequate roads and access to water. Sedgwick County is using our resources to bolster the growing areas of our community to help them remain successful.
We are able to use our resources to have great highway systems to move people and freight, our outstanding Sedgwick County parks, investments in the Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place, and Intrust Bank Arena. This infrastructure and amenities, along with the low cost of living here, make our community more attractive and make it easy to stay.
There is a lot of momentum and forward movement in our community right now and I’m encouraged to see what we can achieve as a team.
David Dennis is chairman of the Sedgwick County board of county commissioners.