Brownback vows to keep Boeing in Wichita

Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday vowed to hold Boeing to its commitment to building a portion of the U.S. Air Force's new refueling aircraft in Wichita.

On Monday, Boeing announced that it was conducting an internal study on the future of its defense plant in Wichita, including the possibility of closing it.

Brownback, a former U.S. senator, said and he and the Kansas congressional delegation fought long and hard to help Boeing secure the $35 billion contract to build 179 aerial refueling tankers. The contract award came earlier this year after years of contentious wrangling and high-dollar lobbying.

"In many respects you wouldn't have this contract if it wasn't for the effort of the Kansas delegation," Brownback said.

Brownback said he is pursuing a meeting with Boeing officials to find out what is going on.

He read from an April 30, 2010 news release from Boeing in which the company said Kansas would benefit from approximately 7,500 jobs with an estimated $388 million annual impact if Boeing was selected as the contractor for the refueling aircraft. "Boeing employees working at the Wichita, Kan. site will play an important role in modifying 767 airplanes into NewGen military tankers if the company is selected for the contract," the news release said.

Brownback said, "We are going to hold the Boeing company to these words."

He said there wasn't anything the state could do legally to force Boeing to stay in Kansas, but he noted that Kansas has two U.S. House members that serve on the House appropriations and budget committees. "Boeing is a major user of federal funds," Brownback said.

State Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, said Boeing's announcement was "unsettling news."

"Kansas has been really good not just for Boeing but aviation in general," he said.

By Scott Rothschild

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