WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Sen. Roger Marshall is raising concerns after Gov. Laura Kelly’s announcement on Thursday that Integra Technologies is bringing a semiconductor manufacturing plant to Wichita that will create at least 2,000 jobs.
In order for Integra to apply for federal CHIPS Act funding, incentive plans (which should be done later this month) need to be in place. But that’s not the only concern of one state leader regarding the second-largest economic development project in Kansas’s history.
Sen. Marshall says he voted against the CHIPS Act in part because he believes most of the money would have gone to other projects out of state. Now that the state has approved APEX funding for Integra’s proposed semiconductor plant, Sen. Marshall says he wonders how those proposed 2,000 jobs the plant is promising will be filled.
“Those same skill sets that help us work in the aerial space industry will work very good in this area as well—I think the challenge is going to be…where are we going to get the people?” Sen. Marshall said.
Sen. Marshall says his concern stems from Wichita’s largest economic driver—aircraft manufacturers—already struggling to find qualified workers amid a tight labor market.
“I think if you would ask them, their biggest challenge right now would be a lack of people for the jobs that they have, that they have so many people that are retiring right now, that are not being replaced,” Sen. Marshall said.
Economist Jeremy Hill, Director of the Wichita State University Center for Economic Development and Business Research, says if Wichita enters into the semiconductor industry, the move will help stabilize the local economy when the aerospace industry suffers downswings.
“It will put pressure on some aerospace companies to raise wages a little bit, and that’s not a bad thing,” Hill said. “We’re nowhere near our previous peak in manufacturing, so it’s not like 2,000 more people is really going to have that much burden when we have had a much higher capacity.”
Hill also says Integra’s new plant will bring back highly skilled workers who are more prepared to re-enter manufacturing.
“When you think about people who have been in aerospace, and they’re ready to move on to something else for diversity, this is going to be a complement to the previous labor market,” Hill said.
A comprehensive timeline for when all 2,000 jobs could make their way into Wichita has yet to be announced.