Wichita Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts says he's hugely disappointed by Boeing Co.'s decision to close its defense plant in Wichita by the end of 2013. Sen. Jerry Moran released a statement today expressing "outrage" at the decision.
Roberts said Wednesday that Boeing's chairman had promised him and other members of the Kansas congressional delegation that the company would keep the Wichita plant open if it landed a contract to manufacture new Air Force refueling tankers.
The company won the $35 billion contract after a decades-long fight helped by Kansas officials.
Roberts says Kansas officials made the best arguments possible for keeping the plant open but can't compel a private company to make a certain decision.
In a statement, Moran said he was "outraged" at the decision, and dismayed that Boeing leadership did not take his suggestion to meet with state and local officials to further discuss the future of the site.
"I am astonished Boeing would make such a hasty decision without considering all of the alternatives or the significant impact this decision will have," Moran said.
Boeing decided to close the plant due to cutbacks in the defense budget.
"The decision to close our Wichita facility was difficult but ultimately was based on a thorough study of the current and future market environment and our ability to remain competitive while meeting our customers' needs with the best and most affordable solutions," said Mark Bass, vice president and general manager for BDS' Maintenance, Modifications & Upgrades division. "We recognize how this will affect the lives of the highly skilled men and women who work here, so we will do everything possible to assist our employees, their families and our community through this difficult transition."
Moran's full statement:
“Today I join thousands of Kansans who are outraged by the announcement that Boeing will be closing its Wichita defense facility – leaving the future for hundreds of Kansas workers in jeopardy. As recently as 10 months ago, I joined these workers and local and state officials in Wichita to celebrate Boeing’s victory in the tanker competition. During the competition for the contract, Boeing pledged that a win would bring approximately 7,500 jobs to Kansas, including hundreds of Boeing jobs associated with the finishing work on the new tankers. It is hard to believe that conditions would have changed so rapidly over the past few months to bring about the decision to not only move the tanker finishing work elsewhere, but to also close down the entire facility. The fact that Boeing is now refusing to honor its commitment to the people of Kansas is greatly troubling to me and to thousands of Kansans who trusted that Boeing’s promise would be kept.
“Furthermore, it was merely six weeks ago when Boeing officials announced they were studying the future of the Wichita site. In this short amount of time, I have urged Boeing leadership to meet with state and local officials to discuss alternatives to the closure of its facility. To my dismay, Boeing’s senior leadership chose not to meet with local Wichita officials or even give them a serious opportunity to work together on a different plan for the future. I am astonished Boeing would make such a hasty decision without considering all of the alternatives or the significant impact this decision will have.
“A company so much a part of the Wichita community for 80 years should not make this decision lightly. I strongly urge Boeing’s senior leaders to reconsider this decision that will have a devastating impact on hundreds of Kansas families. Boeing has been a vital part of our community and we want them to remain in Wichita for many years to come. In the days ahead, I will continue to do all I can to encourage Boeing to fulfill their pledge to the Wichita community.”
Roxana Hegemon of the Associated Press contributed to this report.