Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sam Brownback goes after Boeing's review of Wichita facility

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Boeing is considering leaving Wichita.
  • Boeing is considering leaving Wichita.
Let's take a brief trip down Memory Lane ... "The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] today announced that Kansas will benefit from approximately 7,500 jobs and an estimated $388 million in annual economic impact if the Boeing NewGen Tanker is selected as the U.S. Air Force's next aerial refueling aircraft." That wonderful-sounding promise came in an April 30, 2010, Boeing press release announcing Kansas' congressional delegation's major push to get Boeing a new Air Force contract and keep jobs in the state. And it worked. Boeing got the $35 billion contract last April, and Wichita got jobs.

But on Monday, less than two years after Boeing ingratiated itself to Kansas with jobs and an economic boost, the company announced that it's reviewing its Wichita plant, which the company said could lead to "the potential closure of the Wichita site." Kansas politicians are pissed at Boeing's sudden change of heart.

Gov. Sam Brownback — who worked as a senator to bring Boeing to the state — is going on a media blitz in an effort to compel Boeing to stay in Wichita. In a press release, the governor said, "No one fought harder for Boeing’s win of the U.S. Air Force tanker competition during the last decade than the Kansas delegation and our teamwork paid off. Boeing has promised publicly and repeatedly in writing that the success in winning the tanker contract would mean ‘7,500 jobs’ in Kansas, including several hundred jobs at Boeing-Wichita for the Tanker Finishing Center. We expect the company to honor that commitment."

But, the Wichita Eagle reports there's nothing in Boeing's current contract that requires the company to maintain its Wichita workforce; there's little the state can do compel Boeing to stay put, other than a political guilt trip. Congressman Mike Pompeo, who represents Wichita, told the paper, "We’re going to remind them of their obligations that they have made in seeing these tankers are built in Kansas and in Wichita."

Perhaps with that in mind, Brownback threw down a gauntlet of sorts, noting in the Lawrence Journal-World, that two Kansas representatives are on the House appropriations and budget committees. "Boeing is a major user of federal funds," he told the paper. Boeing's study will be completed by the end of the year or early next year.


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