April 25, 2011
By: Daniel McCoy
Gov. Sam Brownback and other state officials were in Wichita on Monday meeting with a large group local and statewide aviation industry leaders.
But the governor wasn’t on a tour of a factory, or giving a speech at product roll out or industry rally.
Brownback was in town looking for answers to this question:
“What do we need do to keep and expand Wichita as the aviation capitol of the world?”
That was the question the governor posed Monday at an aviation industry summit held at the National Center for Aviation Training.
And more specifically, he asked, what could the state government do to help aid that expansion.
The meeting was the first in a series of summits Brownback plans for what he views as the state’s key industries.
And at the top of his list, was aviation, an industry he said he feels positive about.
“Manufacturing is critical (to the economy). Many places have lost their manufacturing in this last downturn. We have not. This area has not and we’re not going to lose it in the future. And we’re going to fight every step of the way to keep it and grow it.”
For specific points on how to do that, Brownback turned to a panel of industry leaders that included David Coleal, vice president and general manager of Bombardier Learjet; Jeff Turner, CEO of Spirit AeroSystems Inc.; Lynn Nichols, president of Yingling Aviation and chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce; Steve Wade, site executive, Boeing Defense, Space & Security in Wichita; Jack Pelton, CEO of Cessna Aircraft Co.; Bill Brown, executive vice president of global operations at Hawker Beechcraft Corp.; and Don McGinty, president of McGinty Machine Co.
All agreed a partnership with government can be beneficial.
It is interesting, however, that industry leaders ask for a more business-friendly tax code and incentives for everything from work force training to research and development, yet at the same time, they ask for government – as Pelton said – to “get out of the way” when it comes to things like regulations the industry feels are burdensome.
In fairness to Pelton, Cessna is the only one of Wichita’s big three business aircraft manufacturers that hasn’t received a large incentive package from the state in the last year.
Hawker and Learjet both did. And Brown and Coleal both expressed gratitude for the help and emphasized its importance in securing their companies’ futures in Wichita.
When, where and how government needs to get involved will all be things Brownback and his team will have to sort through as it crafts its aviation economic policy.
But he will be leaving Wichita with some of the actionable ideas he said he came here to find.
Some of those, as raised by members of the panel and other industry leaders in attendance, were:
• A stable and balanced tax policy.
• Eliminating corporate income tax.
• Continued funding of NIAR and NCAT.
• Increased funding for work force development.
• Eliminating redundant environmental checks, such as those done by both state and federal entities.
• Creating sound trade agreements with foreign countries.
• Finding ways to combat a shortage of engineers.
• Incentivising companies to keep their outsourcing local.
• Inventorying incentives other states and countries are offering.
• Strengthening communication between OEMs and subcontractors to speed up product-to-market time.
• Having a strategic government presence at trade shows.
• Increasing specific trade missions to other countries, namely China.
There were many other ideas batted around at Monday’s summit, an event that Brownback says helped provide what he was looking for.
Some of the ideas he said he’ll take away from the meeting include looking into the regulatory environment to try and reduce some of the redundant checks, get a better understanding of how to get the engineers the companies are looking for, and to make sure his office makes the best use of its resources when considering trade missions.
Brownback also wants an open dialogue between the state and the industry.
As he told the crowd during his closing remarks:
“When you see things that you’re struggling with, call us,” Brownback said. “The earlier we can get on top of it, we can either get you an answer or we can tell you we can’t get you an answer.”
He also hoped that the relationship between aviation and the state would help move the business of government forward as well.
“You say products move your business. Well, new and innovative policy ideas move mine,” Brownback said. “If you’ve got a new, innovative policy idea, I’m always searching for those. States are the laboratory of democracy. This is where you try (new policies).”
Source: WICHITA BUSINESS JOURNAL