Mar 02 2011
I recently received a long-awaited phone call from Michael Donley, Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, delivering terrific news that the Department of Defense had awarded the $35 billion KC-X aerial refueling tanker contract to the Boeing Company.
As word quickly spread across the state, smiles washed over the faces of Kansans – ending nearly a decade of uncertainty and handing a victory to our airmen and women who will no longer have to depend on an Eisenhower-era tanker fleet. Today, Kansas workers stand ready to build the next generation of refueling tankers for our military.
Replacing our aging tanker fleet is essential to the security of our country and safety of our troops, but this decision also means American tax dollars will be used to create American jobs. This represents true Kansas common sense, and is the result of tireless efforts by the entire Kansas Congressional delegation. Over the last 10 years there have been countless conversations, phone calls, letters and bills to promote a fair tanker competition and make sure the right choice was made for America's military, taxpayers and workers.
Aviation is one of the most important components of Kansas’ economy, with nearly 3,200 aviation and manufacturing businesses calling The Sunflower State home. Unfortunately, due to tough economic conditions, 15,000 aviation-related jobs have been lost over the last three years. The U.S. Air Force’s selection of Boeing has given this important industry a much-needed boost. Just one day after the decision was announced, Governor Brownback proudly declared that Boeing had already begun hiring engineers to work on the new fleet.
The tanker contract means an estimated 7,500 high-quality jobs in Kansas and will have an annual $388 million economic impact on our state. It will support 24 first-tier supplier companies, like Spirit Aerosystems and DJ Engineering who will benefit from the work to be done, and have a multiplier effect across Kansas.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, each job at an aircraft manufacturing plant like Boeing creates 3.42 additional jobs at subcontractors like McGinty Machine as well as at the restaurants, doctors' offices and other service providers the workers use.
Don McGinty, owner of McGinty Machine, expects to add five to 15 workers to his 25-member work force. He has already purchased a new brake press and robotic arm to ramp up for the work.
“This is good news for small businesses like mine and gives us something to build on. We can plan for the future,” Mr. McGinty said.
The Boeing facility in Wichita will act as the finishing center for the nearly 200 refueling tankers to be built based on Boeing’s commercial 767 jetliner. I’ve toured the production line where they perform similar modifications on refueling tankers for Japan and Italy, and can tell you the highly qualified workers in Kansas are well-equipped for this new challenge. These workers have been waiting for the day when they can use their expertise to contribute to the strength of the United States military and the security of our country. That day has arrived.
I know there may still be some concern over whether our decade-long fight for an American-made refueling taker is truly over, but everything I learned in my conversation with Secretary Donley pointed to the fact that Boeing won the contract handily. At the press conference announcing the contract, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said, “What we can tell you was that Boeing was a clear winner.”
Wichita has long been known as the ‘Air Capital of the World,’ and will continue to live up to that reputation as thousands of skilled Kansans get to work on building the next-generation tanker. This decision is great news for our state’s economy and will bring much-needed jobs to the aviation industry that has been hit particularly hard during the economic recession. I look forward to the day when Boeing tankers are coming off the Wichita production lines and being flown by the airmen and women at McConnell and Forbes Air Force bases.