Wichita airport hotel ownership unclear

The Wichita City Council plans to use the consent agenda to vote on an item containing confusing language.

For the Tuesday June 25, 2019 meeting of the Wichita City Council meeting, item No. II-17 concerns the city leasing land to a company wanting to build and operate a new hotel near the airport. 1 The agenda packet holds this language:

“Upon execution of the lease, WEH will provide a $2 million good faith security deposit in escrow with the Airport to ensure timely construction of the hotel. Upon completion of the roof construction, the deposit will be available to WEH for additional construction costs. WEH will invest a minimum of $12 million of private funds to build and equip the property, which the structure will be owned by the WAA in accordance with existing policy. During the life of the lease, WEH is required to make periodic capital improvements and re-investment obligations in order to maintain its franchise agreement with a national flag hotel.” (emphasis added)

(WEH is Wichita Eisenhower Hotel, LLC, a private company formed to construct and operate the hotel. WAA is the Wichita Airport Authority, which is the same as the Wichita City Council.)

Reading this, can you tell me who will own the hotel building? I wondered, so I posed this question by email to the city’s public information officer: “The sentence fragment ‘which the structure will be owned by the WAA in accordance with existing policy’ sounds like the hotel building will be owned by the Wichita Airport Authority. Is this correct?”

I received a generic response that illuminated nothing. 2 My follow-up question was not acknowledged by the end of the day.

The council will, at least according to its schedule, consider this item tomorrow morning. Will city council members, acting as the Wichita Airport Authority, have a clear idea of the meaning of this agenda item and the supporting contract?

I think I know what it means. WEH will own the hotel and lease the land from the city. There’s language like this: “The development group requesting a lease agreement has formed a Kansas corporation to own and operate a hotel on the Airport.” (emphasis added)

Further, the lease is priced by the square foot of land (49.6 cents per square foot per year), although after four years that is replaced by a minimum agreed amount or a percent of the revenue of the hotel.

All this points to WEH owning the hotel building, not the city through the Airport Authority, although the Wichita Business Journal has a different opinion. 3 But it’s a shame that we must guess what the city means.

Will city council members also have to guess? Perhaps. This item is on the airport’s consent agenda. Unless a council member speaks up and asks for clarification, there will be no discussion on this item.


  1. Wichita city council final agenda packet for June 25, 2019. Available at https://wichita.gov/Council/Agendas/06-25-2019%20Final%20Council%20Packet.pdf.
  2. “All buildings and land are owned by the Airport Authority, with just a few exceptions. The FAA owns the control tower and the Post Office and the County owns the buildings at Jabara’s WSU Tech campus. But even in those cases, the land is owned by the Authority. Tenants pay land and building rent but do not pay property taxes.”
  3. The Wichita Airport Authority, which will also own the structure …” McCoy, Daniel. *New hotel planned for Wichita Eisenhower National Airport. Available at https://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/news/2019/06/21/new-hotel-planned-for-wichita-eisenhower-national.html.

Newsletter for June 23, 2019

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Wichita and other airports

How does the Wichita airport compare to others?

The nearby chart shows data starting in 2010 for Wichita and selected airports, as well as all U.S. airports. For all measures except load factor, Wichita is at or near the bottom. Often the trend for Wichita underperforms the other airports, too.

It is not too surprising that the Wichita airport lags others, as the Wichita economy has been underperforming, even losing jobs in 2017. Now we know that the metropolitan area and city proper have lost population.

Local business leaders have formed a campaign to promote using the airport. The statistics in this chart and the visualization end shortly before that campaign started.

This chart was created from a visualization holding data from TranStats, a service of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), which is the independent statistical agency within the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). While monthly data is available, this visualization holds annual totals through 2018.

The visualization holds data for all U.S. airports with scheduled flights. To view and use the interactive visualization, click here.

Wichita and selected airports. Click for larger.

From Pachyderm: Todd Johnson, Wichita Crime Commission

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club this week: Todd Johnson, president of the Wichita Metro Crime Commission. This audio presentation was recorded on June 21, 2019. The accompanying visual presentation is available below.


  • Slides from Johnson’s presentation: click here.
  • Wichita Metro Crime Commission website.

Todd Johnson of the Wichita Crime Commission speaking at the Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Kansas jobs, May 2019

Employment in Kansas grew in May 2019, but continued a trend of slower growth than the nation. The labor force is smaller.

Data released yesterday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows rising employment in Kansas for May 2019. (Click charts and tables for larger versions.)

Using seasonally adjusted data, from April 2019 to May 2019, nonfarm employment in Kansas rose by 600, which is 0.04 percent. Over the year, the number of Kansas nonfarm jobs for May 2019 rose by 12,900 or 0.9 percent over last May. This is using seasonally adjusted data. The non-adjusted figure is higher at 16,500, or 1.2 percent.

Over the year (May 2018 to May 2019), the Kansas labor force is up by 0.1 percent using seasonally adjusted data, with declines of 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent over the last two months. Non-seasonal data shows a decline of 1,574 (0.1 percent) in the labor force over the year.

The number of unemployed persons fell from April 2019 to May 2019 by 222, or 0.4 percent. The unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in May, up from 3.3 percent from one year ago, and unchanged from April.

Using seasonal data, Kansas jobs increased by 0.91 percent over the past 12 months, while national jobs grew by 1.58 percent.

Of the growth of 600 jobs from April to May, 100 were in the private sector, and 500 in government.

Goods-producing jobs fell by 1,100, while service-providing jobs rose by 1,700.

Construction jobs fell by 1,600, and 1,300 jobs were gained in trade, transportation, and utilities.

Click charts and tables for larger versions.

In the following chart of showing job changes from the same month one year ago, Kansas is always below the national rate.

In the following chart showing job changes from the previous month, Kansas sometimes outperforms the nation.

Airport traffic statistics, 2018

Airport traffic data presented in an interactive visualization, updated through 2018.

This visualization holds data from TranStats, a service of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), which is the independent statistical agency within the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). While monthly data is available, this visualization holds annual totals.

The nearby example shows data starting in 2010 for the nation (blue lines) and Wichita. The visualization holds data for all U.S. airports with scheduled flights.

Example from the visualization, showing Wichita compared to all airports, through 2018. Click for larger

A few observations regarding Wichita airport traffic as compared to the nation:

  • Since 2014, passenger traffic (departing passengers) at the Wichita airport is higher, but traffic for the nation as a whole is much higher.
  • The number of scheduled departures has been declining in Wichita, while increasing for the nation after a decline.
  • The number of available seats on departing flights from Wichita has been mostly level, while rising sharply for the nation.
  • Load factor for Wichita has been rising, while level and declining slightly for the nation.

To view and use the interactive visualization, click here.

Newsletter for June 15, 2019

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New metropolitan rankings regarding knowledge-based industries and entrepreneurship

New research provides insight into the Wichita metropolitan area economy and dynamism.

The Walton Family Foundation has released a study titled “The Most Dynamic Metropolitans,” saying it is new research ranking the economic performance of metropolitan areas in the Heartland and across the country. 1

Of the study, the authors write “Our Most Dynamic Metropolitan Index, and the analysis contained in this report provides objective insight into the communities providing economic opportunity for their residents, separating high performers from the low. Most Dynamic Metropolitans provides fact-based metrics on near-term and medium-term performance and prospects for long-term growth. The index allows economic development officials the ability to monitor their metro’s vivacity relative to others on a national basis or within their region and state.”

In the overall rankings, Wichita was number 319 of 379 metropolitan areas examined. Of note, this research recognizes the importance of young firms:

While most of our metrics are commonly used indicators of economic development, the young firm employment ratio is a relatively new measure. We use factor analysis to test our hypothesis that the ratio is an indicator of longer-term economic growth. Factor analysis is a statistical tool that can derive categories, called factors, from several variables by finding the ways clusters of variables move together. A factor analysis on all of our metrics tells us that we generally have the two factors we claimed to have above: one closely relating to variables such as 2016-2017 growth in average annual pay and 2017-2018 job growth. The second most closely relating to per-capita personal income, 2013-2017 growth in real GDP, 2013-2017 average annual pay growth and the young firm employment ratio. Thus, our hypothesis regarding the young firm employment ratio seems valid.

There have been some rankings showing Wichita doing well in jobs at young firms. 2 That’s good, as young firms — which are different from small business — are vitally important to economic growth. 3

This study, however, shows Wichita lagging in young firm employment ratio. In these rankings, Wichita came in at position 247 of 379 metro areas. That is better than the overall ranking for Wichita, which is at number 319.

The young firm employment ratio is calculated using data from 2016. Perhaps newer data will show something different.


  1. Walton Family Foundation. New Metropolitan Rankings Show Knowledge-Based Industries and Entrepreneurship Drive Success. June 10, 2019. Press release with links to documents available at https://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/about-us/newsroom/new-metropolitan-rankings-show-knowledge-based-industries-and-entrepreneurship-drive-success.
  2. Weeks, Bob. Metro Monitor evaluates the Wichita economy. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/economics/metro-monitor-evaluates-wichita-economy-2018/.
  3. Jason Wiens and Chris Jackson. The Importance of Young Firms for Economic Growth. Available at https://www.kauffman.org/what-we-do/resources/entrepreneurship-policy-digest/the-importance-of-young-firms-for-economic-growth.

Updated: Metropolitan populations

A visualization of the population of metropolitan statistical areas, now with annual data from 1969 through 2018.

For most types of economic and demographic analysis, metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) are preferred to cities proper. The Census Bureau notes: “The general concept of a metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area is that of a core area containing a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that core.” 1

Wichita officials usually recognize this and have started to emphasize the importance of the region (the MSA), not just the city. Many of our civic agencies have named or renamed themselves like these examples: Greater Wichita Partnership, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth, Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, Wichita Area Planning Organization, Regional Economic Area Partnership of South Central Kansas, South Central Kansas Economic Development District.

Further, there is more economic data available at the MSA level (compared to the city level) from agencies like Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis. This data includes important measures like employment, labor force, unemployment rate, gross domestic product, and personal income.

This visualization has several different views of population data, from tables to charts showing relative growth. A new feature is a map. You can select a range of years, and as you point to a metropolitan area you’ll see the population change over that time.

to access the visualization.

Example from the visualization. Click for larger.


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Wichita airport traffic

Traffic is rising at the Wichita airport. How does it compare to others?

Click for larger.
Passenger traffic at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport has been rising. We know that from news reports and social media. While rising activity is good, it’s important to place Wichita in context with other airports.

(The Wichita airport has reported data through April 2019, while comprehensive national data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics is available through February, so these comparisons are through February.)

Media reporting on the Wichita airport often uses “passengers” as the measure. The industry, however, uses “enplanements” as the most important measure of airport traffic. When Bureau of Transportation Statistics uses the term passengers, the precise meaning of the data is enplanements. 1

Looking at passengers (that is, enplanements) for the Wichita airport, we see that monthly Wichita passenger counts are rising, generally. 2 But not for all months. Over the past year, there were three months when traffic fell, compared to the same month of the previous year.

Compared to the nation, there were seven months in the past year when the increase in passengers in Wichita was greater than the change for all airports, as shown in the bars for each month in the nearby chart. Because of several slow months in Wichita coupled with some the of good months in Wichita being only slightly better than the nation, the overall picture is not as good for Wichita. This can be seen by the lines in the same chart, where the change in passengers over the last year is always higher for the nation.

Besides the number of passengers, we should also consider the number of flights departing an airport. This is particularly important to business travelers, as for them, the availability of a flight today or tomorrow may be more important than a bargain-price fare. In this chart, there are some months where the number of flights fell from the year before. The 12-month trend for Wichita is falling while rising for the nation.

Is the reported rising passenger count at the Wichita airport good news? Of course it is. But a useful assessment requires placing the Wichita data in context. In that context, the Wichita airport is underperforming.

Click charts for larger versions.

In the following chart of passengers, Wichita counts are generally rising, but not as fast as the nation. This data is indexed with January 2011 representing 100. The thicker lines are the average of the prior 12 months in order the smooth the seasonality of the monthly data.

In the following chart of the number of flights, Wichita is on a downward trend generally, although in the last two years the value has increased slightly.


  1. The government requires carriers to report enplanements, so it is a consistent measure across all airports. Further, airports generate revenue primarily from enplaned passengers rather than arriving passengers. The number of enplanements is almost exactly half the number of passengers. Over the last 15 years, enplanements in Wichita have accounted for 49.88 percent of passengers, with deplanements being 50.12 percent.
  2. Passenger traffic data is highly seasonal. It is not uncommon for passenger counts in the summer months to be 25 or 30 percent higher than winter counts. Therefore, comparisons are to the same month in the previous year.

Updated: Populations of the states

An interactive table and charts of populations in the states and regions, from 1929 through 2018.

How have the states grown in population since 1929? Growth varies widely. This visualization has several views that illustrate changes in state populations.

Click here to access this visualization.

Source of data is Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce.

Click for larger.

Updated: State government tax collections

Kansas personal income tax collections rose by $372 per person in 2018, an increase of 46.5 percent.

Each year the United States Census Bureau collects a summary of taxes collected by each state for 5 broad tax categories and up to 25 tax subcategories. 1 I’ve collected this data and made it available in an interactive visualization. Data is through 2018.

You may recall that Kansas raised personal income tax rates in 2017 and made the new rate retroactive to January 1, 2017. But that change doesn’t seem to have affected the data for fiscal year 2017. For 2016, Kansas collected $767 per person in individual income taxes, and for 2017, $800. Not much difference.

Now data for fiscal year 2018 is available, and it shows Kansas collecting $1,172 per person in individual income taxes, an increase of $372 or 46.5 percent over 2017.

(Here’s the reason for the 2017 data being relatively unaffected. For most states, including Kansas, this data is for the fiscal year, not the calendar year. 2 New withholding tax tables were not available until June 27, 2017, just three days before the end of fiscal year 2017. 3)

Considering all taxes, Kansas collected $3,279 per person in 2018, up from $2,808 in 2017, an increase of $471 or 16.8 percent.

Click here to access the visualization.

Click images for larger versions.

In the following chart showing total tax collections per person over time, Kansas now collects more than our surrounding states.

This chart shows for 2018, the total and the composition of taxes collected.


  1. United States Census Bureau. Annual Survey of State Government Tax Collections (STC). Available at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/stc.html.
  2. United States Census Bureau. State Government Tax Collections: 2017 Technical Documentation. Available at https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/stc/technical-documentation/complete-technical-documentation/statetaxtechdoc2017.pdf.
  3. Kansas Department of Revenue. New Kansas income tax withholding tables now available. Available at https://www.ksrevenue.org/CMS/content/06-27-2017-NewWHTables.pdf.

Newsletter for June 2, 2019

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Naftzger Park, according to Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell

He had an opportunity to learn the true history of Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita. But Mayor Jeff Longwell didn’t learn, or maybe he doesn’t care.

In March, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell answered a question about Naftzger Park, telling viewers of the KPTS Television program Call the Mayor that:

“Actually what we found out is when our city fathers put in that park years ago they put the park in on private development land and so the development’s actually not on Naftzger Park. Naftzger Park used to be planted on private development land and so they had to change the boundaries of the park.”

The mayor blamed past city administrations for not being to read a survey. (Click here to view the video starting with this question.)

Chase M. Billingham, who is assistant professor of sociology at Wichita State University, has researched the history of this part of downtown. 1 He submitted a piece to the Wichita Eagle shortly after that episode of Call the Mayor aired. He wrote:

This claim — that the public park was erroneously built on privately owned land — has been one of the most common arguments offered by city officials in favor of their strategy to bulldoze Naftzger Park and rebuild it on a new footprint. This argument has been voiced repeatedly by elected officials and city staff during City Council meetings and public hearings. As the developers of the Spaghetti Works property have begun to build a new mixed-use development there, the city has maintained that it must fix that previous error and restore the developers’ property rights by relinquishing Naftzger Park’s eastern edge.

The claim that Naftzger Park was built on private land is wrong, however, and it epitomizes the disregard for history and due diligence that has characterized much of the city’s disjointed effort to overhaul this key public downtown space.

Billingham then explained the documented history of land ownership in the area, with the upshot being this: “As a result, small areas on the eastern edge of the park did, indeed, sit on privately owned land. But it was not because the park was built on private land; instead, it was because Wichita sold parts of its own public park to private owners for far less than it had paid for the land just a few years earlier.” (emphasis added)

Concluding, he wrote:

When city officials argue that destroying and rebuilding Naftzger Park was necessary, in part, because their predecessors mistakenly built the public park on private land, they are not being truthful. Among other questions surrounding the demolition of that important public space, then, Wichitans deserve to know why their leaders were so eager to relinquish the public access to this land that they had been entitled to for decades.

Why is this incident from March relevant today, two months later? Because on the May 30, 2019 edition of the monthly show Call the Mayor, Longwell repeated the same falsehood.

I’m reluctant to call someone a liar, as a lie means “a false statement deliberately presented as being true” or “something meant to deceive.” But as Billingham wrote, Wichita city officials, including Longwell, are not telling the truth.

Mayor Longwell, along with other Wichita city officials, had an opportunity to learn the truth in both the online and print editions of the largest newspaper in Kansas. If they did not agree with Billingham’s research and conclusion, there are many ways to have a public dialog on the matter. For example, the city has a popular website and social media presences, with the city’s Facebook page being liked by 27,230 people. 2 The city has a communications staff, including a strategic communications director, marketing services director, assistant director of strategic communications, and communications and special events manager. 3 There is a city manager, assistant city manager, six city council members, and a fleet of bureaucrats.

Don’t any of these people care about the truth? Don’t they want to help the mayor of the city present accurate and truthful information?


  1. Billingham is also the author of a fascinating history of the area, but it was published in an academic journal that is not freely available online. See Billingham, C. M. (2017) “Waiting for Bobos: Displacement and Impeded Gentrification in a Midwestern City”, City & Community, 16(2), pp. 145–168. doi: 10.1111/cico.12235.
  2. Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/cityofwichita/, observed on May 31, 2019.
  3. City of Wichita. Meet the Communications Team. Available at https://www.wichita.gov/News/Pages/Team.aspx.

Real personal income

Click chart for a larger version, or click here for the chart’s page at FREDs Economic Data at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Billions of Chained 2012 Dollars, Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate, Percent Change from Year Ago, Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate.
Frequency: Monthly.
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Real Personal Income [RPI], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/RPI, May 31, 2019.

Wichita jobs and employment, April 2019

For the Wichita metropolitan area in April 2019, the labor force is up, the number of unemployed persons is down, the unemployment rate is down, and the number of people working is up when compared to the same month one year ago. Seasonal data shows small declines in labor force and jobs from March.

Data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows an improving, but also mixed, employment situation for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Click charts and tables for larger versions.

Total nonfarm employment rose from 298,500 last April to 303,400 this April. That’s an increase of 4,900 jobs, or 1.64 percent. (This data is not seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are not valid.) For the same period, jobs in the nation grew by 1.76 percent.

The unemployment rate in April 2019 was 3.3 percent, down from 3.5 percent one year ago.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force fell by 227 persons (0.1 percent) in April 2019 from March 2019, the number of unemployed persons fell by 97 (0.8 percent), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent. The number of employed persons not working on farms fell to 299,538 in April from 299,668 the prior month, a decline of 130 persons, or 0.0 percent.

The following chart of the monthly change in labor force and employment shows a general decline over the past year, with some recent months of losses for both measures.

The following chart of changes from the same month one year ago shows a general decline in the rate of growth.

Looking at the charts of changes in employment year-over-year, we see some months in the past year where Wichita outperformed the nation. That last happened in 2012.

This article has been updated to correct a mistake in the original version.

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Wichita population, 2018

The City of Wichita lost 1,052 in population from 2017 to 2018, a decline of 0.27 percent.

Data released today by the United States Census Bureau shows the City of Wichita losing population from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018. 1

The bureau’s estimate of city population on July 1, 2018 is 389,255. This is a decline of 1,052 (0.27 percent) from the year before. These are populations of cities, not metropolitan areas, although the Wichita metropolitan area also lost population. 2

The estimate of population on July 1, 2017 was revised from 390,591 to 390,317, meaning that for 2017, Wichita population declined by 242 from the July 1, 2016 population of 390,509.

With the revised 2017 figure, Wichita has had two years of declining population, as can be seen in the nearby chart.

While Wichita lost 0.27 percent of its population in one year, the top 100 cities gained 0.51 percent. Since 2010, Wichita has grown by 1.71 percent, while the top 100 cities grew by 7.57 percent.

Wichita is the fifty-first largest city, down from fiftieth the two prior years.


  1. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places of 50,000 or More, Ranked by July 1, 2018 Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2018 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division Release Date: May 2019
  2. Weeks, Bob. Wichita population falls; outmigration continues. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-population-falls-outmigration-continues/.

Individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas

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