Wichita: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Wichita's principal industrial sector is manufacturing, which accounted for 21.6 percent of area employment in 2003. Aircraft has long since dominated the industry, and plays such an important role that it has the ability to influence the economic health of the entire region. In the early 2000s a national and international recession combined with the after effects of the terrorist attacks on September 11th to depress the aviation subsector in and around Wichita. Orders for new aircraft plummeted, prompting Wichita's four largest aircraft manufacturers—Boeing Co., Cessna Aircraft Co., Bombardier Learjet Inc., and Raytheon Aircraft Co.—to slash a combined 15,000 jobs between 2001 and 2004. In response, these companies began developing small- and mid-sized airplanes to appeal to business and corporate users.

Healthcare is Wichita's second-largest industry, employing approximately 28,000 people in the local area. Since health-care needs remain fairly consistent regardless of the economy, this field was not subject to the same pressures that affected other industries in the early 2000s. The Kansas Spine Hospital opened in 2004, as did a critical care tower at Wesley Medical Center.

Several Wichita companies are leaders in their respective fields. Vulcan Chemicals, which operates a manufacturing plant in Wichita, ranks among the country's top producers of chlorinated solvents used to make such products as plastics, film, soft drinks, and electronic circuitry. Cargill Inc., one of the nation's major agribusiness corporations, has made Wichita the corporate headquarters for its Cargill Meat Solution division. The Coleman Company, a pioneer in the production of outdoor recreational gear, was founded in the city in the early twentieth century and remains headquartered there. Other companies based in Wichita include Koch Industries Inc., a diversified company active in chemicals, energy, finance, and paper; Via Christi Health System, a Catholic healthcare system serving Kansas, Oklahoma, and California; and Chance Rides Inc., the nation's largest designer and manufacturer of amusement rides.

Items and goods produced: airplanes, airplane supplies, outdoor recreational equipment and supplies, chemicals, meat products, household appliances, amusement rides

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The City of Wichita offers a number of incentive programs, including Industrial Revenue Bonds and a Neighborhood Revitalization Area Tax Rebate Program, which offers a 75- to 95-percent rebate on increased taxes due to new construction or refurbishment of property in certain areas within the city. The Wichita Business Loan Program has a loan pool of $9 million for existing and new small businesses within Revitalization Strategy Areas. The City of Wichita and the County of Sedgwick may extend tax exemptions for property used for manufacturing, research and development, or storing goods or commodities. Incentives offered by the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. include a Tenant Improvement Grant Fund, Housing and Pilot Landscaping grant programs, Douglas Street Facade Improvement Program, and Historic Preservation Tax Credits.

State programs

Kansas offers Enterprise Zone tax exemptions and credits to manufacturing companies that create at least two new jobs and to non-manufacturing businesses that create at least five new jobs. A Kansas Income Tax Credit may be available to firms that pay above-average wages to employees. The Kansas Existing Industries Expansion Program (KEIEP) and the Kansas Economic Opportunity Initiative Fund (KEOIF) provide loans to existing businesses that invest capital while keeping existing jobs or creating new ones. An income tax credit may be available for research and development expenses. A Kansas constitutional amendment exempts the inventories of merchants and manufacturers from property taxes.

Job training programs

The Investment in Major Projects and Comprehensive Training (IMPACT) program offers assistance in establishing training projects for new employees. The Kansas Industrial Training (KIT) program extends training assistance to new or expanding companies, while the Kansas Industrial Retraining (KIR) program assists companies that are diversifying or restructuring. Training services are also provided by the Wichita Area Technical College, the Kansas Technical Training Institute, and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, which was founded in 2003.

Development Projects

Downtown Wichita has attracted over $100 million in investment since 2002. In addition to several residential developments, downtown now features the Old Town Square, a $20 million complex encompassing a six-screen movie theater, retail space, and office space. The City Arts buildings opened in 2004, and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame held its grand opening in April 2005. The largest project in the planning stage is the Wichita Waterwalk. Scheduled for completion in 2007, the $138 million development will house office, retail, and residential space. The River Corridor Improvement Project, which will open in 2006, will enhance public space along the Arkansas River by installing pedestrian bridges, constructing an amphitheater, and erecting the "Keeper of the Plains" statue.

Elsewhere in the city, developments of all sorts are in various stages. VoiceStream Wireless moved into Wichita in 2000, adding 800 new jobs. Other new businesses include Acutel Inc., Advanced Plastic Coating Services Inc., Midwest Technologies Inc., and VeriPrime Inc. The recently renovated Kansas Coliseum opened the Park City Raceway, a dirt racetrack, in May 2003, and the Wichita Art Museum completed a $10 million renovation the following month. The Waterfront shopping district, a 165-acre multi-use complex, and Regency Lakes Shopping Center, a 60-acre retail and restaurant project, were in the works in 2004. The Kansas Spine Hospital opened in Wichita that same year, as did the $70 million critical care tower at Wesley Medical Center.

Economic Development Information: Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, 350 W. Douglas, Wichita, KS 67202; telephone (316)268-1133; fax (316)265-7502; email gwedc@wacc.org. Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce, 350 W. Douglas Ave., Wichita, KS 67202; telephone (316)265-7771; fax (306)265-7502; email info@wacc.org

Commercial Shipping

Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is the state's largest commercial and general aviation complex. In addition to transporting passengers, the airport handled 37,000 tons of cargo in 2004. Its major overnight carriers are Airborne Express, DHL, Emery, FedEx, and UPS. Wichita lies on Interstate 35, the only interstate highway that connects the United States with both Canada and Mexico. The city is served by 16 national and regional interstate common carriers. Three major railroads—Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad—link the city to most major continental markets. Wichita has access to the U.S. Inland Waterway System from two ports located within 200 miles: the Port of Kansas City and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa provide access to the Missouri and Arkansas rivers, respectively. Wichita is home to the Sedgwick County Foreign Trade Zone #161, an area where foreign goods bound for international destinations can be temporarily stored without incurring an import duty.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Sedgwick County ranks second in the nation for concentration of manufacturing jobs and skilled labor, and first for employment in aircraft and parts manufacturing. The concentration of manufacturing firms utilizing high technology design is partially responsible for the highly-skilled work-force. Investment in training is also a contributor, as Kansas ranks second in the nation for workforce development spending per capita.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Wichita metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual average:

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 282,800

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 16,100

manufacturing: 58,400

trade, transportation and utilities: 49,500

information: 6,100

financial activities: 12,200

professional and business services: 26,300

educational and health services: 38,400

leisure and hospitality: 25,200

other services: 12,100

government: 38,500

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $19.45 (2004)

Unemployment rate: 6.3% (February 2005)

Wichita: Economy

Largest employers (2004) Number of Employees
The Boeing Co. 12,300
Cessna Aircraft Co. 8,000
Raytheon Aircraft Co. 7,000
U.S. Government 5,186
Unified School District No. 259 4,955
State of Kansas 4,800
Via Christi Health System 4,795
City of Wichita 3,200
Sedgwick County 2,695
Bombardier Aerospace Learjet 2,500

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Wichita area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $234,693

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 95.5 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: Ranges from 3.5% to 6.45% (personal); 7.35% (corporate)

State sales tax rate: 5.3%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 1.0% county tax

Property tax rate: $113.387 per $1,000 assessed valuation (most areas; 2004)

Economic Information: Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, 350 W. Douglas, Wichita, KS 67202; telephone (316)268-1133; fax (316)265-7502; email gwedc@wacc.org. Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce, 350 W. Douglas Ave., Wichita, KS 67202; telephone (316)265-7771; fax (306)265-7502; email info@wacc.org