The economic development coalition of private business, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, City of Wichita and Sedgwick County that forms the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) is working to secure a total $52.7 million expansion of Bombardier Learjet’s presence in Wichita. The expansion would include several new buildings, expanded facilities and create hundreds of new, high-paying jobs.
If the new project is secured, Bombardier Learjet would make $48.7 million in capital investment at its Wichita Mid-Continent Airport campus. Potential plans include:
• Expanded Bombardier Flight Test Center – Bombardier would expand its Flight Test Center that performs flight testing on all models of Bombardier aircraft plus conducts aircraft development and certification. The expansion would also provide for additional machining and fabrication.
• Engineering and IT Centers of Excellence – Plans include establishing an even larger presence of engineering expertise in Wichita that would serve as a hub to provide specialized engineering design services for a variety of Bombardier aircraft programs. Plus it would expand Bombardier’s Information Technology Center of Excellence where IT professionals from Learjet’s campus support Bombardier operations throughout the United States.
Potential new buildings would include:• Aircraft delivery center to be built at Learjet’s entrance on Tyler Road.• Paint facility for the new Learjet 85.• Production flight facility for aircraft testing prior to delivery.
The planned expansions would initially create 400 new jobs at Learjet with a high of 625 jobs expected by the second year, ending with a cumulative total of 450 net new jobs at the end of 2017. Projected new payroll would be more than $47 million in the first year, reaching a high of $77.5 million by 2014.
“We are working closely together to make sure we can do our part on this project because it represents hundreds of new jobs and great new facilities,” said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. “But just as important it represents a more diversified Bombardier Learjet operations here. With the increased engineering, IT and test flight jobs, it helps us gain more Bombardier work that is spread across more areas in aviation which positions us well to earn even more work in the future.”
Working with GWEDC staff, city and county staff will propose to the city council and county commissioners that each provide $1 million to construct two new parking lots on Learjet’s campus to allow for the new buildings. The new parking lots would be owned by the Wichita Airport Authority and leased to Learjet for employee and public use. The three new facilities – Learjet 85 Paint, aircraft delivery and production flight facilities would then be built on the current parking lots.
The Wichita Airport Authority has prepared a grant application for an Economic Development Administration (EDA) public works grant that would help defray the cost of the parking lot and fund an additional $2 million if the city council and county commissioners vote to construct the lots. The $4 million new parking lots would join the $48.7 million investment from Bombardier Learjet for a total $52.7 million expansion. The South Central Kansas Economic Development District is assisting with the grant.
Based on the potential capital investment from Bombardier Learjet and the new job creation, the company would also be eligible locally for property tax abatement on the new and expanded facilities for up to ten years.
“We know that Bombardier has existing operations all over the United States and globe where they can choose to invest and create jobs,” said Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Dave Unruh. “Plus we’re competing with very aggressive states and communities that want projects and jobs like these because the wages are high and the investment deep.
“It’s important that our team approach helps us secure this for our community and for Kansas. We thank everyone involved for their ongoing hard work on this project,” Unruh said.
The city council plans to vote on the proposed incentives at its Nov. 15 meeting, and the county commission plans to have the project on its agenda on Nov. 23.
“We applaud the entire team of city, county and state which is working so hard to make sure this project and many others locate here in the Air Capital of the World,” said Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lynn Nichols. “What’s even better is that because of our great work force and our legacy in aviation, we can often out-play with smarter and fewer incentives the stiff competition and large amounts of cash that other states are willing to pay. We just can’t ever take it for granted.”
According to an analysis of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, given the company’s investment of dollars locally, the new construction, plus the new payroll compared to the cost of public services delivered, the project would return $1.26 to the city and $1.23 to the county for every dollar invested, providing the original $2 million investment back plus an additional $1.5 million total to the city general fund and to the county over the 10 years.
“Learjet is one of our premier companies with a world-renowned brand, and we congratulate them on this exciting plan for future growth,” said GWEDC Chairman Paul Allen. “Our business community understands that securing these kinds of investments and jobs from Bombardier is critical to securing and growing our community’s economic future. It’s especially great to have this kind of announcement in this economic environment.”
As is typical, the grant agreement includes provisions for the company repaying the funds if it does not make the capital improvements outlined or falls short of the new job creation.
“We know it’s been a hard few years in the aviation industry, and in our community, and we’re more than ready to celebrate some great news that positions us well for a great tomorrow,” Mayor Brewer said.
GWEDC is the regional public-private partnership formed and funded by 92 local businesses, the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County. It’s managed by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and charged with creating and executing the community’s business recruitment, retention and expansion plans and marketing the region.