A decision about the possible closure of the Boeing Co.’s defense plant in Wichita appeared imminent after a mandatory meeting for all employees was set for Wednesday at the facility.
Boeing officials said in November that the company was studying whether to close the Wichita facility, which specializes in modifying commercial aircraft for military or government operations, in order to address Pentagon budget cuts. The company said it would make an announcement by early this year, fueling speculation that decision will be the topic of the employee meeting.
Jarrod Bartlett, spokesman for Boeing in Wichita, confirmed the employee meeting but declined further comment.
The anticipated announcement comes just two weeks after U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo told reporters that a top Boeing official had told him the firm plans to do modifications on the Air Force refueling tankers at its plant in Washington state rather than Wichita. Boeing also intends to move maintenance work on Air Force One out of Wichita to Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Boeing won a decade-long fight for Pentagon approval to build 179 refueling tankers worth at least $35 billion, a project long touted as being able to create some 7,500 direct and indirect jobs in Kansas with an overall economic impact of $388 million.
The study of plant’s future has now raised fears about the existing 2,100 jobs at the facility.
Boeing has had a facility in Wichita since 1929 when it bought the Stearman Aircraft Co.
In 2005, Boeing spun off its commercial aircraft operations in Kansas and Oklahoma. At that time, the company still had roughly 15,000 employees in Wichita. After the divestiture, Boeing retained 4,500 workers for its defense work in Wichita but layoffs since have slashed that remaining workforce.