Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition

What else can Wichita do for downtown companies?

What else can Wichita do for downtown companies?

With all Wichita has done, it may not be enough. Within a month, these two headlines appeared in the opinion pages of the Wichita Eagle: Investment in downtown Wichita is impressive [1. Brownlee, Phillip. Investment in downtown Wichita is impressive. Wichita Eagle. March 5, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/opinion/editorials/article64129977.html.] State and local leaders need to help meet Cargill’s needs [2. Holman, Rhonda. State and local leaders need to help meet Cargill’s needs. Wichita Eagle. April 1, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/now-consider-this/article69534982.html.] The second headline was in response to the news story "Cargill plans to move its Wichita headquarters -- but where?" [3.…
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Brookings Metro Monitor and Wichita

Brookings Metro Monitor and Wichita

A research project by The Brookings Institution illustrates the poor performance of the Wichita-area economy. Metro Monitor from The Brookings Institution rates metropolitan areas on a number of indicators. On the map of metropolitan areas, blue means faster growth, and orange means slowest. You can see that Wichita has the economic growth of a typical rust belt city. (Click charts for larger versions.) The table showing changes in indicators over the past decade shows Wichita almost always below the middle. The charts of trends over time shows Wichita falling behind the nation, then catching up in 2007 and 2008, but…
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In Wichita, open records relief may be on the way

In Wichita, open records relief may be on the way

A new law in Kansas may provide opportunities for better enforcement of the Kansas Open Records Act. This year the Kansas Legislature passed HB 2256, captioned as "An act concerning public bodies or agencies; relating to the state of Kansas and local units of government; providing certain powers to the attorney general for investigation of violations of the open records act and the open meetings act; attorney general’s open government fund ..." The good part of this law is that it provides additional enforcement options when citizens feel that government agencies are not complying with the Kansas Open Records Law.…
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In Kansas and Wichita, there’s a reason for slow growth

In Kansas and Wichita, there’s a reason for slow growth

If we in Kansas and Wichita wonder why our economic growth is slow and our economic development programs don't seem to be producing results, there is data to tell us why: Our tax rates are too high. In 2012 the Tax Foundation released a report that examines the tax costs on business in the states and in selected cities in each state. The news for Kansas is worse than merely bad, as our state couldn't have performed much worse: Kansas ranks 47th among the states for tax costs for mature business firms, and 48th for new firms. (Starting in 2013,…
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Wichita area job growth

Wichita area job growth

Private sector job growth in the Wichita area is improving, but lags behind local government employment growth. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics through 2014 allows us to compare trends of employment in the Wichita metropolitan area. Over the past few years we see private sector employment rising. At the same time government employment, particularly state and local government employment, has declined or leveled. Over the 24 years covered by the chart, private sector employment grew by 16 percent. Local government employment grew by 41 percent. This long-term trend is a problem. It is the private sector that generates…
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Wichita tourism plan should include spending disclosure

Wichita tourism plan should include spending disclosure

As part of a plan for spending a dedicated tax revenue stream, the Wichita city council should include disclosure of spending. It would fulfill a campaign promise. When the City of Wichita collects money through taxation, citizens have the right to know how it is spent. For the city, it is possible to view every check that is written, although the city is not able to supply this information in machine-readable form. But it is available. But when the city establishes non-profit corporations that are funded totally, or nearly totally, with taxes, different rules apply, says the city: Spending does…
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A Wichita Shocker, redux

A Wichita Shocker, redux

Based on events in Wichita, the Wall Street Journal wrote "What Americans seem to want most from government these days is equal treatment. They increasingly realize that powerful government nearly always helps the powerful ..." But Wichita's elites don't seem to understand this. Three years ago from today the Wall Street Journal noted something it thought remarkable: a "voter revolt" in Wichita. Citizens overturned a decision by the Wichita City Council regarding an economic development incentive awarded to a downtown hotel. It was the ninth layer of subsidy for the hotel, and because of our laws, it was the only…
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Wichita officials complain of lack of cash for incentives

Wichita officials complain of lack of cash for incentives

Wichita has stepped up with cash for incentives when needed, contrary to complaints of economic development officials. With reports of lackluster results in creating and retaining jobs in Wichita, economic development officials in Wichita complain of a lack of cash incentives. But recent history shows that when cash is needed, local governments have responded positively. When Hawker Beechcraft threatened to leave Wichita for Baton Rouge, Wichita and Sedgwick County contributed $2.5 million each for an incentive. (Never mind that the threat to move was not real.) Not long after that, the city and county contributed $1 million each for an…
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Economic development in Sedgwick County

Economic development in Sedgwick County

The issue of awarding an economic development incentive reveals much as to why the Wichita-area economy has not grown. At the December 17, 2014 meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission an economic development incentive was considered. The proceedings are of interest as a window into how economic development works. The proposal was that Sedgwick County will make a loan to Figeac Aero in the amount of $250,000 as an economic development incentive in conjunction with its acquisition of a local company and a contemplated expansion. It's likely the county will also participate in forgiving property taxes, although that decision will…
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In Wichita, running government like a business

In Wichita, running government like a business

In Wichita and Sedgwick County, can we run government like a business? Should we even try? Do our leaders think there is a difference? As Wichita considers the future of its economy, a larger role for government is contemplated. The views of the people leading the effort to expand government management of the local economy are important to explore. Consider Gary Schmitt, who is an executive at Intrust Bank. Following is an excerpt from the minutes of the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners. The topic was a forgivable loan to Starwood Hotels and Resorts…
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This week, Wichita has a chance to increase government transparency

This week, Wichita has a chance to increase government transparency

The Wichita City Council can decide to disclose how taxpayer money is spent, or let it remain being spent in secret. The City of Wichita has three surrogate quasi-governmental agencies that are almost totally taxpayer-funded, specifically Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, and Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. Each agency contends it is not a "public agency" as defined in Kansas law, and therefore does not have to fulfill records requests. These agencies spend considerable sums of tax money. This week the city will consider funding Go Wichita with a budget of $2,356,851 for 2015. That…
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City of Wichita State Legislative Agenda: Economic Development

City of Wichita State Legislative Agenda: Economic Development

The City of Wichita wishes to preserve the many economic development incentives it has at its disposal. The proposed legislative agenda for the City of Wichita holds this regarding economic development incentives: ISSUE: The State of Kansas provides economic development incentives through a variety of programs. RECOMMEND: The Wichita City Council supports the continuation of state economic incentive programs that assist local governments in their efforts to improve their local economies. That’s all the agenda holds. In the presentation for the previous year, the request was more complete, naming specific programs. It’s useful to revisit that list, as Wichita leaders…
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Not all Wichita candidates support your right to know

As candidates spring up for Wichita mayor and city council, voters need to know that many, such as current district 2 council member Pete Meitzner and mayoral candidate Jeff Longwell, have been openly hostile towards citizens' right to know how taxpayer money is spent. Following is a news story by Craig Andres of KSN News. View video below, or click here. For more on this issue, see Open government in Kansas. Transparency groups want to know where Wichita tax money is going to promote Wichita WICHITA, Kansas -- Public or private? GoWichita, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and the Greater Wichita…
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In election coverage, The Wichita Eagle has fallen short

In election coverage, The Wichita Eagle has fallen short

Citizens want to trust their hometown newspaper as a reliable source of information. The Wichita Eagle has not only fallen short of this goal, it seems to have abandoned it. The Wichita Eagle last week published a fact-check article titled "Fact check: 'No' campaign ad on sales tax misleading." As of today, the day before the election, I've not seen any similar article examining ads from the "Yes Wichita" group that campaigns for the sales tax. Also, there has been little or no material that examined the city's claims and informational material in a critical manner. Someone told me that…
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Wichita city hall doesn’t need a sales tax to burn off the fog

Wichita city hall doesn’t need a sales tax to burn off the fog

As Wichita voters consider promises of transparency and reporting regarding job creation, the city fails to make even the most basic information available. In November, Wichita voters will consider whether to authorize a sales tax of one cent per dollar. Part of that would be used for economic development with the aid of creating jobs. The city promises a transparency in decision making and reporting of results regarding this jobs fund. Material produced by the city on July 22 contains: "Decisions about who receives funding, the number of jobs, and the impact on community would be made in public meetings…
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Voter support of taxpayer-funded economic development incentives

Voter support of taxpayer-funded economic development incentives

In a poll, about one-third of Wichita voters support local governments using taxpayer money to provide subsidies to certain businesses for economic development. In April Kansas Policy Institute commissioned SurveyUSA to conduct a scientific poll concerning current topics in Wichita. The press release from KPI, along with a link to the complete survey results, is available at Poll: Wichitans don’t want sales tax increase. The second question the survey asked was "In general, do you agree? Or disagree? With the idea of local governments using taxpayer money to provide subsidies to certain businesses for economic development?" Following are the results…
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For Wichita, another economic development plan

For Wichita, another economic development plan

The Wichita City Council will consider a proposal from a consultant to "facilitate a community conversation for the creation of a new economic development diversification plan for the greater Wichita region." Haven't we been down this road before? This week the Wichita City Council will consider funding "the formulation of a new economic development strategy." Here's a summary provided by the city: Wichita State University approached STARNet about developing a proposal to assist WSU, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and the community with the formulation of a new economic development strategy. Over a period of almost ten months STARNet…
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Wichita debt levels seen to rise

Wichita debt levels seen to rise

As part of the campaign for a proposed Wichita sales tax, the city says that debt is bad. But actions the city has taken have caused debt levels to rise, and projections are for further increases. According to the most recent edition of Wichita's Performance Measure Report, the city's debt levels are projected to rise, based on three measures. One measure, named "Outstanding Net General Obligation Debt as a Percentage of Assessed Value," is projected to rise. From 2007 through 2011, the average value for this measure was 1.50 percent. Since then its actual value has risen, and the city…
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In Wichita, promises of accountability and transparency

In Wichita, promises of accountability and transparency

Boosters of the proposed Wichita sales tax promise transparency. But Wichita has not delivered on that in the past, and still rebuffs the public's right to know. When a city council member apologizes to bureaucrats because they have to defend why their agencies won't disclose how taxpayer money is spent, we have a problem. When the mayor and most other council members agree, the problem is compounded. Carl Brewer won't be mayor past April, but the city council member that apologized to bureaucrats -- Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita) -- may continue serving in city government beyond next year's…
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