Business Incentives Give Lift to Kansas Aviation Industry
Assembling a Learjet 60 Airplane in Wichita, KS
Employees assemble new Learjet 60 airplanes at Bombardier's Learjet manufacturing facility in Wichita, Kansas.
With an economy connected to the world at the speed of Learjet, Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, Airbus, Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems and other aircraft companies, Kansas is taking steps to nurture the industry that makes it the world’s aviation leader.
“We’ve built over a quarter-million aircraft in Kansas,” says Randi Tveitaraas Jack, international business recruitment manager for the Kansas Department of Commerce.
The state is taking steps to ensure that aircraft keep coming off the line in Wichita, long known as the Air Capital of the World, and in Independence, where Cessna assembles the Citation Mustang business jet and single-engine piston aircraft.
Wichita has six major aircraft companies, including Airbus Americas Engineering; Boeing Defense, Space & Security; Bombardier Aerospace/Learjet; Hawker Beechcraft; Spirit AeroSystems; and Cessna, which manufactures and services its Citation business jet line in the city.
Kansas Aviation Innovation
Additional aviation industry companies with large Kansas operations include:
• Garmin International, navigation systems
• Honeywell Aerospace, avionics
• GE Engine Services, aircraft engine overhaul
• Triumph Group, aircraft components
• Goodrich Cabin Systems, aircraft interiors
• TECT Aerospace, aircraft components
• B/E Aerospace, aircraft interiors
• Senior Aerospace, aircraft components
At least 30,000 people are employed in the aviation industry and a significant number, over 40 percent globally, of general aviation aircraft are built in Kansas,” says Tveitaraas Jack.
Approximately 200 suppliers and “innovation companies” do business in Kansas, says Suzie Ahlstrand, interim president of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. “They are the rest of the foundational pieces. When you put all these together, you’d be hard pressed to find any place in the United States with the depth and breadth of Kansas in the aviation industry,” she says.
A major contract for Boeing will have enormous impact for the Kansas aerospace and aviation industry. Boeing, in early 2011, was awarded a $35 billion contract to build a new fleet of air refueling tankers for the Air Force based on its 767 jetliner platform. The company has estimated the project, which will deliver some 200 of the tankers, will create 50,000 jobs at its U.S. operations.
Initial estimates put the number of jobs in Kansas directly and indirectly tied to that contract at 7,500, with an economic impact of $388 million. Boeing’s Wichita operations will be the finishing center for converting the jets into tankers, and Spirit AeroSystems, which builds the forward section for the 767, is also expected to see work from the contract.
Incentives Create Jobs in Kansas
Facing competition from other states and even other countries that would like to lure those jobs away, the state is making targeted use of economic incentives to ensure that the industry has an unmatched business climate in Kansas. Two of the largest aviation companies responded with major investments in the state.
Bombardier Aerospace announced the expansion of its Learjet production in Wichita to include the advanced new Learjet 85. The company is creating at least 300 jobs and $600 million in total investment in Kansas. Approximately 600 jobs will be associated with the new production line.
The expanded Learjet site will handle final assembly, interior completion, paint and final delivery of the Learjet 85, the largest, fastest and longest-range Learjet ever. The announcement came after a meeting between state and company officials at the Farnborough Air Show in England. Bombardier Learjet has about 2,250 employees in the state.
Hawker Beechcraft, a world-leading manufacturer of business, special mission and trainer aircraft, inked an agreement with the state that guarantees the company will maintain its current production lines in Wichita and retain at least 4,000 jobs over the next 10 years. The company’s headquarters and major facilities
are located in the city.
Kansas’ commitment to the industry includes research and training facilities that help its aviation businesses maintain their lead. The National Center for Aviation Training, a world-class facility in Wichita, provides realistic hands-on technical training on the latest aircraft manufacturing equipment. NCAT also incorporates major new facilities for the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR).
Located at Wichita State University, NIAR is the nation’s largest aerospace research and development academic institution. It provides applied research into advanced materials and composites, 3-D prototyping, aerodynamics, aircraft aging and other fields critical to aircraft design and manufacturing. An Industry Advisory Council, composed of senior managers from several aviation companies, communicates the industry’s needs to NIAR.
NIAR “plays a key role in attracting and retaining aviation manufacturing businesses,” says Tracee Friess, NIAR’s spokeswoman and coordinator of special projects.