GOP lawmaker asks Boeing to hand over Wichita facility to state, local officials

A Kansas lawmaker wants Boeing to hand its facility in Wichita to a local or state development group when it vacates the site in late 2013.

The defense-aerospace firm announced last week that it will close its Wichita facility next year after an in-depth study showed it no longer makes financial sense to keep it open, a decision that shocked Wichita employers and officials across the state.

“The city of Wichita and the state of Kansas have been key partners in Boeing’s success over the years,” Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) wrote in a Tuesday letter to Boeing CEO James McNerney. “As Boeing seeks to find a new owner for the Wichita facility after operations cease in 2013, I ask that you seriously consider conveying the property to a local or state development authority.”

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If Boeing makes such a move, the “contribution will enable the city of Wichita to attract new industries and get its economy back on track,” Moran wrote.

Moran directly addressed the financial and political support Kansas state officials and its congressional delegation have given to the company for decades.

“The city of Wichita and the state of Kansas have been key partners in Boeing’s success over the years,” Moran wrote McNerney. “Since 1979 the city of Wichita has provided more than $3.5 billion in industrial revenue bonds to finance Boeing facilities and $650 million in property tax abatements.

“Boeing has also profited from lower taxes and worker training programs put into place by the state of Kansas,” the lawmaker told the CEO. “Additionally, Boeing has benefited from a supportive federal congressional delegation, which stood by Boeing throughout the last decade in the fierce competition for the Air Force tanker contract.”

Moran requested that McNerney meet with Wichita and Kansas officials to discuss options for the Wichita facility.

Boeing said Wednesday that it has yet to decide what it will do with the Wichita aircraft facility.

"It’s too soon to say what will happen to the property," Doug Holmes told The Hill. "We are doing a complete analysis of the facility and will review all of our options and make a decision at the appropriate time."

Moran and other Kansas lawmakers are bitter over Boeing’s decision. Last week, Moran issued a statement accusing Boeing of failing to “honor its commitment to the people of Kansas.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said in his own statement that he had secured assurances from top Boeing executives that if the firm won the Air Force tender, the assembly work would be done in Kansas.

“Boeing's chairman sat in my office 22 months ago during that battle and promised me ... that if we won the fight to get the tanker contract back, Boeing would stay in Wichita," Roberts said. "The chairman again promised the entire delegation the work would remain in Wichita just last February, when the tanker contract was settled in Boeing's favor."

The announcement came after the firm’s executives for nearly a decade vowed to assemble Air Force tanker planes there if Boeing won a contract to do so. It did last year, but altered course last Wednesday, announcing the tanker would be built in Washington state.

The Wichita facility's 2,100 current jobs will be lost, and it will not get around 7,500 more long promised by Boeing to assemble the new flying gas stations.