WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — As part of his State of the City address Thursday, Mayor Brandon Whipple says Wichita is well on its way to becoming a global leader not only in manufacturing but in technology.
According to Mayor Whipple, the City of Wichita has competed for 10 economic development projects in the past six years, collectively worth a billion dollars in capital investment. Eight of those projects have been pursued in the past 24 months alone.
Mayor Whipple says the city also competed for 15 economic development projects that provided 1,000 jobs each (more than half of which, again, were sought after in the past two years).
The mayor also emphasized the local economy’s transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding Wichita was the only city in Kansas to use American Rescue Plan funds to create millions in workforce development grants. He says in the last year, the city provided more than $2 million for start-up assistance, business planning, and business incubator spaces.
The mayor said by April of last year, the city restored or created 32,400 jobs and now sits at a 3% unemployment rate.
In addition to Wichita’s economic development achievements in the past year, Mayor Whipple also emphasized the need to retain young talent and cited millions the city has given to WSU and WSU Tech. Two other key factors he says are attracting a younger workforce: the city’s perfect score of 100 by the Human Rights Campaign, and the city’s NDO.
He also noted the strides the city made to hire a new police chief and decriminalize marijuana and fentanyl test strips (as well as ensuring law enforcement officers can carry and distribute Narcan if necessary in the fight against the opioid epidemic).
Two other recent accomplishments involve the WFD: specifically, a dramatic increase in job applications over the past year thanks to a new contract, and $45 million towards new fire stations in the next eight years.
As for his top priorities this year, Mayor Whipple says the city needs to develop more local partnerships to combat homelessness and create more economic opportunities.
“As we bring in more jobs, we also need job training programs, and that pumps right into making sure that quality of life stays at a standard where people want to live here, want to grow here, and that we also invest in our infrastructure so people can get to those jobs,” Mayor Whipple said.
The mayor says the city also plans on moving forward with its $9 million plan to help Wichita reach the goal of a “functional zero” homeless population and $18 million to modernize Century II within the next 10 years.