More than 125 investors in the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition got a look at the economic development plan for Wichita, KS,¬†and were given their annual update.
In 2013, GWEDC successfully brought home five projects that together represent $45.13 million in capital investment in Wichita and Sedgwick County, along with a projected creation of 1,117 new jobs with an annual payroll of $31.86 million.
The 800-pound gorilla in the lot which accounts for an overwhelming majority of the new jobs is the customer contact center established by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) in Wichita.
The other four projects were expansions undertaken by and JR Custom Metal Products, Lee Aerospace, Wesley Medical Center, and High Touch Technologies.
GWEDC Chairman Steve Sharp, who is a vice president at Spirit AeroSystems, said that Wichita‚Äôs skilled workforce was an important factor that helped attract these new jobs.
Sharp said GWEDC made the business case for Starwood to locate in Wichita and for the other four companies to expand, adding that securing business expansions and recruitment was a complicated process with moving parts. Sharp said the competition for these projects was tough and they were glad to have won them.
Wichita State University‚Äôs Center for Economic Development and Business Research provided figures on the return on public investment into the GWEDC-facilitated projects. For 2013, the ROI was pegged at 42 percent.
This means that for every dollar in local government funds spent on economic development projects and the GWEDC‚Äôs operational costs, the public is expected to receive $1.42 back in terms of new public benefits for the City and County.
To increase competitiveness, GWEDC identified four critical areas in 2013, including incentives, diversification, real estate solutions and ‚Äútelling our story.‚Äù They have developed an economic development plan based on three of the four factors, and have already started implementing tactics suggested in the plan.
As far as real estate solutions are concerned, GWEDC plans to focus on adding mega sites. To this end, they have already purchased an option for a large site on more than 400 acres near Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. The site could be ideal for large industrial projects that need access to a commercial runway and railroad track.
GWEDC is also working on a diversification strategy that focuses in part on reshoring and exports. To this end, GWEDC is participating in a Brookings Institute and JP Morgan Chase project that is helping them create an aggressive export strategy.
GWEDC is a public-private partnership which leads the South Central Kansas economic development activities to market the region as a business location. They are therefore also planning to undertake joint efforts with other partners to explore the potential of a community-wide brand statement.
Tim Chase, President of GWEDC, says he‚Äôs often said that economic development is a team sport. Chase said they‚Äôll be advancing Wichita in 2014 with the help of all their investors, which includes 175 private companies and organizations, in addition to the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County.