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Blue Origin CEO sees big supplier potential in visit to Wichita

Wichita Business Journal | Daniel McCoy

One of the biggest names in the new space race is ready to do business with Wichita.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) this week, in conjunction with the Greater Wichita Partnership, hosted Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith at a dinner with local aerospace leaders and a tour of several suppliers the following day.

And as the young company ramps up, Smith said during a stop at Metal Finishing Co., the local supplier density and capability makes Wichita a potential “one-stop shop” for much of what Blue Origin needs.

“It’s so important for us to partner commercially with a wide supply base,” he said. “We’re really imploring the Wichita supply base to come with us on this great adventure for what we’re going to go do next in space. Kansas has a remarkable heritage in aerospace that’s almost unmatched.”

Blue Origin, which Smith said has grown five fold in five years, will next month launch its New Shepard rocket into space with passengers for the first time — including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

But as the commercialization of space opens up new frontiers for companies like Blue Origin, Smith said there will be ever-increasing supply demand.

And in a globally competitive aerospace industry, he hopes to keep as much of the industry in the U.S. as possible.

“The reason I’m in Wichita is exactly that,” Smith said. “We are growing a space company. We really are in the second Golden Age of space flight.”

The trip to Wichita was the company’s first such tour of a supplier community — and Moran said he hopes Smith and the leaders of other space companies will become familiar faces in town as the Air Capital ties itself to the burgeoning industry.

“The goal, of course … is in the near future we learn of new business being conducted by Blue Origin with Wichita and Kansas companies,” he said.