Last week a few local citizens attacked local businesses for growing jobs in Wichita. These anti-business rants are branding Wichita with an anti-business climate.
At the City Council meeting last week, the city and Wichita State University were the objects of inflammatory comments from several local citizens. Bombardier Learjet, Textron Aviation and High Touch Technologies were attacked for using a financing tool known as industrial revenue bonds. These bonds are routinely used nationwide by companies to borrow money for new capital investments. The bonds are repaid to the lender in full, plus interest, and represent no cost or risk to local governments or any taxpayers. The city’s decision to discount a small portion of the millions in tax revenues they collectively pay each year in return for assurance the companies grow here is a smart investment.
The critics also argued that the city’s efforts to help two aviation companies, Bombardier and Textron, which collectively employ more than 7,500 people, was counter to Wichita’s aspiration to diversify the economy. Apex Engineering was also criticized for being overly dependent on the aviation industry. Apex Engineering’s plan is to merge operations in Wichita, creating 108 net new high-paying jobs rather than at one of its other existing locations in Dallas, St. Louis or Charleston, S.C.
Would the anti-business voices’ diversification strategy be to send aviation jobs to other cities and states, thereby crippling our economy? Where’s the logic in that?
WSU is well-known for its objective and solid evaluations. However, one citizen accused WSU of fraudulent practices in its economic study, which calculates the estimated return on investment that new jobs provide to local government coffers.
But the kicker was a personal assault on Wayne Chambers, CEO of High Touch, because he dared to grow his company in downtown Wichita during the same year he served as the volunteer chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. The truth is that without Chambers’ civic commitment to Wichita, his company likely would have accepted one of the many offers to instead expand operations in Dallas or Baton Rouge, La.
We commend the mayor and City Council for standing up to these anti-business zealots. It’s high time we quit turning the other cheek to their method of operation and the message it sends about Wichita.
Gary Plummer is president and Jon Rosell is chairman-elect of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.