Wichita Boeing has started hiring engineers to work on its $35 billion contract to build a new fleet of air refueling tankers for the Air Force, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday.
“The employment has already begun,” Brownback told reporters at a news conference at Boeing’s defense plant in Wichita.
Brownback and the state’s congressional delegation were at the plant one day after the Pentagon selected the company to build nearly 200 airborne refueling tankers based on its 767 jetliner. Boeing was chosen over European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.
Boeing has said the contract would support some 50,000 jobs nationwide.
A Boeing win has long been touted to create some 7,500 direct and indirect jobs in Kansas with an economic impact of $388 million. That figure includes existing and new jobs at Boeing and its suppliers, along with the ripple effect of other jobs created from the economic impact.
Boeing Wichita will be the finishing center for converting the jets into tankers. Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems also would get work from the contract because it builds the forward section for the 767.
“We won. We got it. We are going to build it,” a jubilant Brownback said.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation weren’t predicting any hard job numbers on Friday, just that the contract will mean “a whole bunch” of jobs in Wichita.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said he was told by the Air Force that the Boeing bid met all of the requirements, with the emphasis on the “all.”
“How sweet it is,” Roberts told reporters. “Every once in a while, the good guys win.”
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said it was a decision that is going to benefit America.
“The good news is the outcome itself, but it is good news to know it wasn’t close,” Moran said.
Former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who worked to bring the tanker bid to Boeing for years before he was defeated in a run for senator, said that had the Air Force awarded EADS the contract it would be like outsourcing our national security.
The state’s newest congressman, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, said it has been nearly impossible to get the smile off people’s faces in Kansas since the bid was announced.
“It reminds us all why this is the Air Capital of the World,” Pompeo said.