Boeing jets out of Kansas, confidence still soaring

Rob Burkett / Washburn Review

For those paying attention to the state of the Kansas economy, some might have the inclination to start declaring the sky is falling. One can’t help but feel that this is a bit of an overreaction.

The Boeing Company announced Jan. 4 they would be closing the Wichita plant by 2013. With the outrage expressed by people like U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback, one would think that Boeing somehow was dealing Kansas a mortal blow to its economy. This is simply not true.

In fact, in the case of Wichita, other plane manufacturing plants in the city have, up to this point, made no move to leave the Sunflower state. Spirit AeroSystems, which has taken over building civilian airliners for Boeing, will still remain in the city that will keep many Kansans employed in the near term. While the loss of the jobs involved in building the new military tankers is something to mourn, the state economy will still also retain more than 24 different contracts to build parts for the tanker.  While certainly a cause for thought, the move by Boeing isn’t the deathblow that some seem to think.

In the meantime, the naysayers have conveniently been ignoring some positive results. In what can only be termed a “sweet” success for the capital city, Topeka received news this past year that Mars Chocolate company will bring as many as 950 plus jobs to the area with the construction of a new factory in South Topeka. According to Steve Jenkins, senior vice president of Go Topeka, the average salary of those employees will be $43,000. Not too bad for a state that seems to be obsessed with the idea that they are getting left in the proverbial economic dust.

Along with that news, one also can’t forget the high tech success that the state managed to bring through.

While Topeka, which changed its name to Google, Kan. for a month, ultimately was left at the alter by the internet search engine giant of the same name, the Sunflower state still managed to take advantage of the fiberwire craze. When the dust settled on a wild chase to bring Google to Kansas, Kansas City managed to land the project, bringing infrastructure improvement jobs as well as high tech positions with the company to the area.

At the same time all of this has taken place, the state legislature has been working towards building a work force that will be able to meet the economic challenges of the future. With a proposed grant in 2012 of $1 million to Kansas State University, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University for development of engineering programs at those institutions of higher learning. With a state government committed to funding programs that will allow students to be competitive in the tech market, the economic future of the state should be one of economic growth in the future.

For those that are crying over spilled milk as Boeing flees out of town in 2013, keep in mind that for every one departure there are companies that want to be a part of this heartland state’s future.

To paraphrase Ghandi, “Be the state you want to be.” Don’t worry and keep working toward a more diverse and better future.