Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition

In Wichita, will Southwest save our city?

Talk that low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines might enter the Wichita market has the usual cast of government bureaucrats, centralized planning advocates, and their boosters in a tizzy. The Wichita Eagle's Rhonda Holman has Wichita director of airports Victor White saying that if the necessary subsidies are offered, the popular airline will consider serving Wichita. (Oops. White actually used the word "incentives," not "subsidies." There are some who believe there is a difference in meaning between the two words. These are the types of nuances you have to become comfortable with when politicians and government bureaucrats try to direct and control…
Read More

Wichita economic development claims deserve scrutiny

Reports that Southwest Airlines may be considering adding service in Wichita have lead to enthusiasm for the economic development that this service would add. In the current case, reporting by Molly McMillan of the Wichita Eagle tells of a study produced by Wichita State University's Center for Economic Development and Business Research. She reports "In a worst-case scenario, the entrance of the airline in the study would add roughly 7,000 direct and indirect jobs in Wichita over a three-year period." An editorial in today's edition of the Eagle repeats this number. While more air service options are good for Wichita…
Read More

Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau should follow Kansas Open Records Act

Remarks to be delivered to the December 1, 2009 meeting of the Wichita City Council. Mr. Mayor, members of the council, I'm recommending that the city not renew its contract with the Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau until that organization decides to follow the Kansas Open Records Act. Recently I made a request under the provisions of the records act for records from the Bureau. This request was denied. The Bureau didn't deny my request because of the nature of the records I asked for. Instead, the Bureau's Chairman, Devin Hansen, has an understanding, he wrote, that the Bureau…
Read More

Public effort should benefit all taxpayers, not a select few

The following article by Dave Trabert, president of the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy, was printed in yesterday's Wichita Eagle. Trabert makes the case for broad-based policies that will benefit all companies, not just those who happen to qualify for government economic development programs. A specific example of a small business struggling but not qualifying for assistance was presented by Steve Compton, owner of the Eaton Steakhouse in Wichita. In February he spoke to the Wichita City Council and explained the difficulties his business is facing. He asked the council to consider small businesses just as much as large…
Read More

Wichita’s economic development is expensive, risky

Sunday's Wichita Eagle carried an op-ed piece written by Doug Stanley, vice chairman of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. As we might expect, he calls for more government involvement and management of economic development. Stanley makes the point that economic development organizations like GWEDC have customers, going so far as to cite the saying "the customer is king." The idea of a customer, however, implies willing and voluntary participants on both sides of the transaction. While the companies that receive benefits from the taxpayer are willing participants, the taxpayers are not. Reading Stanley's op-ed, you might conclude that Wichita…
Read More

Sedgwick County industrial park requires scrutiny

At Wednesday's meeting of the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners, a seemingly innocent item appeared on the meeting agenda. Titled simply "LAND PURCHASE CONTRACT -- Presented by Chris Chronis, CFO" and accompanied by a recommendation to approve the contract, this item might have slipped public notice if not for Dion Lefler's Wichita Eagle story the day before. Four members of the public -- one being myself -- attended the meeting to speak to the commissioners on this matter. There was one other person who attended for the same reason. I'm not including him as "public," because as chairman of a…
Read More

Sedgwick County land purchase raises questions

Wichita Eagle newspaper stories from summer 2003 tell of the City of Bel Aire's plans for an industrial park. Today Sedgwick County may purchase this land from the small city. This item, described on the agenda -- at least I think this is the item -- simply as "Land purchase contract" has assumed a sense of urgency. The Eagle news stories tell how the city of Bel Aire purchased the land in secret, because it didn't want the City of Wichita to be aware of its plans. But the important questions are these: Bel Aire hired real estate developer Steve…
Read More

Wichita Eagle’s GWEDC board membership in perspective

What is the role in public affairs of a newspaper like the Wichita Eagle? Can it wear more than one hat -- making news as well as covering it? This is not a hypothetical question. Consider that Pam Siddall, president and publisher of the Wichita Eagle is a member of the steering council of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, an important, partially tax-funded board, that plays a significant role in Wichita. Should this make any difference to you? When the Eagle's editorial board grants the president of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition space on its pages, should readers…
Read More

In Wichita, let’s have economic development for all

GWEDC crucial to attracting, retaining jobs, says a post by Phillip Brownlee on the Wichita Eagle Editorial Blog. (GWEDC is the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition.) There's probably little doubt that offering incentives to companies to move to Wichita results in some that do. And, as we've seen, some Wichita companies are adept at inciting rumors they might move or locate new facilities somewhere else in order to gain some advantage or incentive from local or state (or sometimes both) government. Whether these economic development policies are wise is far from settled. Last year the Kansas Legislative Division of Post…
Read More

Can Wichita government investment create jobs?

Recently the president of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition wrote an op-ed that engaged in a large measure of self-congratulation, while at the same time asking for even more resources. (Vicki Pratt Gerbino: Invest in recruiting, preserving area jobs, February 15, 2009 Wichita Eagle) We need to examine whether activities of groups like the GWEDC are really needed and desirable. First, Ms. Gerbino states "To date, our public investments have returned more than $2 for each public dollar invested." Reading this, it sounds like a great deal -- local taxpayers put up $1 and get $2 back. But it…
Read More

Marcey Gregory Letter Fact Check

A letter in the Wichita Eagle on October 26, 2008 contains a few inaccuracies -- okay, lies -- and I'm surprised it made it past the editors. The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce has said several times that Karl Peterjohn, in his interview before them, was confused about the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition and its role. I can't imagine the interview proceeded as portrayed by Harvey Sorensen. Why do I say this? Because over the past few years, I've had several conversations with Karl about this organization and its role in Wichita. A lie in this letter is when…
Read More

Wichita Mayor and City Council Prefer to Work Out of Media Spotlight

In a statement read at the August 26, 2008 meeting of the Wichita City Council (see City Council Acts on Arena Area Redevelopment), Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer expressed his concern that "The naysayers have gotten too much media attention while those who are engaged and do the hard work are too often ignored and criticized." I think the mayor's assessment is a little overblown. Can a tiny group of citizen volunteers -- a ragtag group, some might say -- manage to outmaneuver the vast resources of the City of Wichita and its allied quasi-governmental organizations such as Visioneering Wichita, Wichita…
Read More

Local economic development in Wichita

Writing from Memphis, Tennessee Today's Wichita Eagle (November 5, 2005) tells us of a new economic development package that our local governments have given to induce a call center to locate in Wichita. The deal is described as "one of the biggest the two-year-old economic development coalition [Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition] has landed." There is an interesting academic paper titled "The Failures of Economic Development Incentives," published in Journal of the American Planning Association, and which can be read here: www.planning.org/japa/pdf/04winterecondev.pdf. A few quotes from the study: Given the weak effects of incentives on the location choices of businesses…
Read More