The Boeing Co. announced today that it would close its defense plant in Wichita, Kansas, by the end of 2013, which will cost more than 2,160 workers their jobs. In November 2011, Boeing had noted that it was contemplating closing the Wichita facility, which specializes in modifying commercial aircraft for military or government operations, in light of Defense Department budget cuts. The first layoffs are expected to begin in the third quarter of this year.
The company noted it was moving future aircraft maintenance, modification, and support to its plant in San Antonio, Texas, and engineering work to Oklahoma City. Work on the Air Force refueling tanker will be performed in Puget Sound, Washington. The 24 Kansas suppliers on that program will continue to provide parts as originally planned.
"In this time of defense budget reductions, as well as shifting customer priorities, Boeing has decided to close its operations in Wichita to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and drive competitiveness," said Mark Bass, vice president and general manager for the Boeing Defense, Space & Security facility in Wichita. "The decision to close our Wichita facility was difficult but ultimately was based on a thorough study of the current and future market environment."
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said the city, which prides itself as being the air capital of the world, has a long history with Boeing in the community. Boeing has had a facility in Wichita since it bought the Stearman Aircraft Co. in 1929. During World War II, employment at the plant peaked at more than 40,000 as the company produced four bombers a day. For decades the company remained the city's largest employer.
Bass did note, "The company spent more than $3.2 billion with approximately 475 Kansas suppliers in 2011, spanning its commercial and defense businesses, making it the fourth-largest state in Boeing's supplier network." He further said, "Based on Boeing Commercial Airplanes growth projections for the next few years, Boeing anticipates even more growth for suppliers in Kansas. Boeing values its long-term partnership with Kansas, and we will continue to work with all of our stakeholders in Kansas in support of a robust aerospace industry in the state."