Spirit AeroSystems plans major expansion, job growth

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Spirit AeroSystems made a major economic announcement Wednesday.

The company announced the addition of 1,000 jobs and capital investments totaling $1 billion over the next five years in Wichita.

“This is hugely important,” says Sedgwick County Commissioner, Jim Howell. “I think this is the largest jobs announcement we’ve had since I’ve been elected… in the last eight years.”

The county will give about $7 million to Spirit to help them build a new building. The city will add the same amount of money.

Spirit CEO Tom Gentile says the growth is fueled by a number of factors: increasing production rates on existing commercial aircraft programs, growth in Spirit’s Fabrication and Defense businesses and other new business pursuits. The announcement solidifies Spirit’s presence in Wichita and Kansas for decades to come.

Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer attended the event, along with Spirit AeroSystems executives and various Wichita-area political and business leaders.

“Wichita is our headquarters and the hub of our operations,” said Spirit President and CEO Tom Gentile. “Our workforce is unparalleled, with generations of aircraft employees who have worked in our plant. And now future generations will have those same opportunities. We are proud to partner with the city, county and state to bring new jobs and investment to the community and help ensure Wichita remains the Air Capital of the World.”

“Spirit AeroSystems’ $1 billion investment marks one of the largest economic development projects in Kansas history and will result in great career opportunities for over a thousand Kansans,” said Kansas Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer. “I am thrilled that we were able to bring this project to fruition with our incredible partners at Spirit, and I look forward to seeing the impact their investment will have both on Wichita and the state as a whole.”

The majority of the new job creation will be in the hourly ranks, including skilled sheet metal mechanics, composite technicians and CNC machine operators.

Aviation analysts say it will be a shot in the arm for the Wichita economy.

“Spirit is in a very strong position and they’re good with their growth prospects, too,” says Richard Aboulafia, with the Teal Aviaton Group. “Most importantly from a Wichita standpoint, most of the community is linked to the low-end of the business jet market which has remained resolutely in the doldrums since 2008. So from a diversification standpoint (Spirit) it’s the literal only game in town. They’re all about large, commercial jets and military planes, so that’s good.”

Lt. Governor Colyer says the state will provide some incentives as well to help Spirit build a new building.

“The state will be donating the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars into the project. But we are in the final negotiations of that. The lawyers are dealing with it and these (negotiations) are typical for programs of this scale. It’s a very modest investment from the state but one that’s been pretty effective.”

Spirit will add at least 800 new employees in 2018, with another 200 in 2019. The jobs are guaranteed to remain for two decades, or Spirit would have to pay back some or all of the incentive monies.

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