WICHITA (FoxKansas.com) -- One of Wichita's largest and most prestigious companies could take off and leave the area, in what would surely be a huge blow to the economy and psyche of the city known as the Air Capital.
Officials at Boeing have confirmed that they are taking a hard look at their Wichita operations and whether the company should remain. The firm has launched a review that is expected to be complete by the end of this year or early next year.
"Boeing is studying the future of its Wichita, Kan., facility as part of an initiative to address the current defense budget environment," spokesman Jarrod Barlett said in a written statement. "The Wichita facility faces pressures because of product and services contracts that have matured and expired, and limited prospects for future work. We are in the process of engaging key stakeholders — including customers, government officials and union representatives — to share this information as we continue to have open and candid discussions about the challenges we face in the current budget and economic environment."
Boeing is based in Chicago and has a division that focuses on commercial travel. Boeing's commercial aircraft operations in Wichita were spun off several years ago.
Boeing's other division, which focuses on defense needs, has a large presence in Wichita, employing over 2,000 employees. The Wichita plant works to maintain and modify existing aircraft for military needs.
News of Boeing's plans seem to have taken federal, state and local lawmakers by surprise given that the company recently was awarded a $35 billion contract to build 179 refueling tanker aircraft. It was expected that the Wichita plant would have a hand in the building of the aircraft.
"I am incredibly, incredibly concerned that Boeing is now backing off the commitment that they made, and it's my expectation that they will continue to honor that commitment and they need to tell us that," Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, whose congressional district includes Wichita and who previously ran a business that supplied aircraft parts, told the Associated Press.
Gov. Sam Brownback told the Associated Press that he and the state's congressional delegation hoped to meet with Boeing executives to discuss their plans.
Brownback, a former U.S. senator, worked to secure the Boeing tanker contract. The governor told the AP that Boeing officials made statements in April 2010 that a large portion of the contract work for the tankers would be done in Kansas.
"We're going to hold the Boeing Co. to those words," Brownback told the AP. "This is a serious matter."
FoxKansas.com Staff Writer Alfred Charles contributed to this report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.