Sedgwick County industrial park chasing uncertain industries


Sedgwick County is considering becoming a developer of an industrial park. The county is limiting itself to deals described as a “home run,” meaning a company that plans to hire more than 1,000 workers.

The problem is that there are few of these deals each year. Maybe just five to eight. But Sedgwick County’s policy makes those odds even worse.

That’s because the county wants to limit tenants of the park to those in “clean” industry, specifically the composites and alternative-energy industries. This likely means the number of deals will be less than five to eight each year.

It could even be none. That’s because of the nature of the two industries.

Consider composites. One of the most promising avenues for their use is in medical devices, and Wichita is actively pursuing that market. Parts used in hip replacements are often given as an example.

The problem with the medical parts market is that it may not exist in its present form after a few years. As the United States considers nationalized health care, we must recognize this means that expensive surgical procedures such as hip replacements will be rationed. Here’s the Wall Street Journal reporting on Canada’s experience:

On the other side of the country in Alberta, Bill Murray waited in pain for more than a year to see a specialist for his arthritic hip. The specialist recommended a “Birmingham” hip resurfacing surgery (a state-of-the-art procedure that gives better results than basic hip replacement) as the best medical option. But government bureaucrats determined that Mr. Murray, who was 57, was “too old” to enjoy the benefits of this procedure and said no. In the end, he was also denied the opportunity to pay for the procedure himself in Alberta.

If the U.S. adopts Canadian-style health care, it doesn’t seem that medical devices will be a growth market.

The other industry Sedgwick County wants to limit itself to — alternative energy — has its own set of problems. Primarily, the industry exists only because of large government subsidy. As the Production Tax Credit for wind energy was about to expire last year, industry advocates warned Congress that without the tax credits, the wind energy industry would be in trouble.

This is a typical quote: “If we move into 2009 and it [the production tax credit] hasn’t been extended, new orders will shrink and it will be a major blow to these new US [wind] manufacturing, investment, and jobs across many states.”

The two industries that Sedgwick County wants to bet on, as you can see, have uncertain futures.


2 responses to “Sedgwick County industrial park chasing uncertain industries”

  1. Bob; The problem with private industial developers is that most of them are still in the mentallity of the 1950’s thinking they can “sell” their land to indrustry. Thats not the case any more. Why would industry expand or start new by paying for land (and other costs) when there are sites all over the country that will “gift” them their start up?

  2. Bob Weeks

    That is a big problem. I realize that we in the Wichita metro area can’t unilaterally disarm ourselves when competing with other areas for economic development. This is an issue that needs to be addressed at the national level.

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