Wichita has stepped up with cash for incentives when needed, contrary to complaints of economic development officials.
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 incentive for Bombardier Learjet.
So there is recent history that shows when officials feel that spending on cash incentives is necessary, the city and county find the money. It’s difficult to imagine that if GWEDC officials had come to the city or county with a need for cash — especially if a deal was truly hinging on a cash contribution — that the council and commission would not find the money somewhere.
Job creation in context
For 2014, GWEDC claims credit for creating or retaining 424 jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that for 2014, the labor force for local geographies was:
Sedgwick County: 242,460
Metro Wichita: 300,911
For each area, 424 jobs amounts to this percent of the labor force:
Wichita: 0.23 percent
Sedgwick County: 0.17 percent
Metro Wichita: 0.14 percent
Sales tax not about cash, they said
While economic development officials complain of lacking a deal closing fund, during last year’s sales tax campaign we were told that Wichita would not be competing by giving out cash. Material on the “Yes Wichita” campaign website, under the heading “Why is this plan different?” reads “It’s not about cash for jobs — it’s about investing in ourselves.”
Later on the same page: “We’ll let other cities compete with cash and instead we’ll invest in our people and infrastructure.”