Wichita, KS Airport, Rail, Roads Build Distribution Industry

With the largest commercial airport in Kansas, the only Midwest interstate corridor linking Mexico, the United States and Canada, major railroads and a foreign trade zone that encourages import and export businesses, Wichita is in the center of North America’s business activity.

By
Michaela Jackson
On Sunday, September 11, 2011 - 18:00

With the largest commercial airport in Kansas, the only Midwest interstate corridor linking Mexico, the United States and Canada, major railroads and a foreign trade zone that encourages import and export businesses, Wichita is in the center of North America’s business activity.

“Even in a down economy, we are moving products in and out of the region by truck, rail and air,” says Sherdeill Breathett Sr., economic development specialist with the Sedgwick County Economic Development Department.

Interstate 35, which forms an unbroken line on a map from northern Mexico to southern Canada, makes the region a hub for the shipment of manufactured goods by truck. That activity blossomed after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminated trade barriers and tariffs.

"The highway’s presence encourages the growth of small manufacturers. The economy is stabilized by manufacturing,” Breathett says.

Sedgwick County FTZ Promotes Growth

Sedgwick County’s foreign trade zone is another plus, Breathett says. It is used by a diverse mix of companies, from aircraft manufacturers to Hospira, the maker of hospital products with manufacturing operations in McPherson, to reduce the cost of importing and exporting goods. Companies can delay and even avoid paying customs duties and taxes on items in international commerce when they are kept in a trade zone.

“That creates a level playing field with their competitors in other countries by reducing the cost of duties,” Breathett says. “The foreign trade zone has without a doubt kept a lot of jobs in the state instead of moving offshore.”

The foreign trade zone offers covered warehouse and assembly space and has building sites for manufacturing facilities. It is the only U.S. Customs Service-bonded warehouse within a 200-mile radius.

“We ship nationwide from the foreign trade zone. Every day we are shipping goods into the nation’s economy,” says Manager Jack Brooks. “When goods leave the facility, they pay customs duties and any federal, state and local taxes. Everybody benefits.”

The facility has nearby interstate access and is served by the Missouri Pacific Railroad. It is located just five miles south of Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport, whose runways – the longest is 10,301 feet – can accommodate many of the world’s largest cargo and passenger aircraft.

Mid-Continent Airport Links Wichita to World

Mid-Continent Airport set a record by handling 1.6 million passengers in 2008, says Valerie Wise, air service and business development manager. Boardings and arrivals declined by about 113,000 passengers in 2009, but the pace picked up again in 2010.

Another sign of strength was Delta’s decision to restore service to Detroit, a major hub for travelers to Asia. Airlines serving the airport provide nonstop service to a dozen destinations.

“We offer easy access to just about anywhere you need to fly,” Wise says.

In addition to scheduled airline service, the airport is home to a variety of other aviation enterprises. Three fixed-base operators provide a range of services, including aircraft fuel, repairs and charter flights. There are approximately 270 general aviation aircraft based at the airport. They are used for business travel, charters, training and personal transportation, adding yet another transportation option to the region’s choices.

The airport also is home to operations by aviation companies including Garmin, the maker of communications and GPS navigation equipment, Rockwell Collins, which makes communications gear and aviation electronics, and Honeywell, a major avionics supplier and aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michaela Jackson has worked as a reporter for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as a freelance writer for a variety of regional and national magazines.