A company that helped Wichita become known as the Air Capital of the World is leaving.
Boeing, one of the city’s iconic manufacturers, said it will close its sprawling facilities in south Wichita by the end of 2013.
The decision ends Boeing’s 85-year history with the city and affects 2,160 workers in Wichita, their families and the community.
Plant closures like this have big ripples, as all the parts suppliers are wondering if they will find their orders coming to an end, and all the companies that sold things to the workers find their customers without jobs. Kansas social service organizations are worried, because the folks that had been donors are now likely to become clients. This kind of thing has happened all over the country, every time a major plant gets shut down.
What makes this plant closure announcement different is that according to Republican US Senator Pat Roberts, Boeing’s announcement reneges on a deal. Said Roberts in his press release [pdf]:
Boeing’s chairman sat in my office 22 months ago during that battle [to decide who would win a new military refueling tanker contract] and promised me, then-Senator Brownback and Congressman Tiahrt that if we won the fight to get the tanker contract back, Boeing would stay in Wichita. 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 other Kansas Senator, Republican Jerry Moran, had this to say [pdf]:
Today I join thousands of Kansans who are outraged by the announcement that Boeing will be closing its Wichita defense facility – leaving the future for hundreds of Kansas workers in jeopardy. As recently as 10 months ago, I joined these workers and local and state officials in Wichita to celebrate Boeing’s victory in the tanker competition. During the competition for the contract, Boeing pledged that a win would bring approximately 7,500 jobs to Kansas, including hundreds of Boeing jobs associated with the finishing work on the new tankers. It is hard to believe that conditions would have changed so rapidly over the past few months to bring about the decision to not only move the tanker finishing work elsewhere, but to also close down the entire facility. The fact that Boeing is now refusing to honor its commitment to the people of Kansas is greatly troubling to me and to thousands of Kansans who trusted that Boeing’s promise would be kept.
Boeing, as you might imagine, disagrees with this characterization. Shorter Boeing press release [pdf]: “Fellas, fellas, fellas. It’s nothing personal — it’s just business.”
Today’s statement from Boeing is terrible news. It is a confession that it will not honor its commitment to Kansas. Those Kansas purchases Boeing announced are not new work, but rather a function of increased build rates on already promised work in Kansas. Boeing’s statement confirms that it will indeed break years and years of promises. . . .
Regrettably, we have now learned that Boeing will not only walk away from its commitment to the people of Kansas to finish the KC-46A tanker here, but it will also leave the state altogether—a state that helped make Boeing successful for more than 80 years and a state whose pride in its heritage with Boeing is second to none. Do not be fooled by Boeing’s announcement that it will continue to rely on sub-supplier work in Kansas. While economically important, that development is not news. That work in no way substitutes for the decade of promises made by the Boeing Company with regard to defense work on the KC-46A tanker at the Boeing-Wichita facility.
The GOP is shocked — shocked, I tell you — to discover that corporations would deceive members of Congress and break their word when it suits them.
Welcome to the world outside the DC bubble, fellas. Now you’ve gotten a taste of how the 99% live.
Photo h/t to Jan “Jannie-Jan” McLaughlin