Wichita economic development: We can’t be satisfied with this


Today as the Wichita City Council approved another round of cronyism and business welfare in the name of economic development, Mayor Carl Brewer spoke approvingly of the city’s efforts in this regard.

As quoted by the Wichita Eagle, Brewer said this of his critics:

“We recognize you can make any argument you choose,” Mayor Carl Brewer said. “Cities that prosper, the things they have to do … is make investments to do things. As long as we’re putting people to work and creating an environment … where new businesses come to our community, it provides the opportunity to grow new business.”

If the mayor and council believe what we’ve been doing has created prosperity and jobs, I wish he would take a look at numbers. When we compare the Wichita MSA to other areas and the country as a whole, we realize we’re not doing well at all.

Wichita MSA GDP growth

This illustration shows GDP growth for the Wichita MSA (purple line) as compared to U.S. metropolitan areas (blue line) and all other MSAs (dimmed lines). I use data for MSAs because that is what is made available. Also, the city and county like to talk about a regional approach.

The top two charts show the growth in GDP for government, and then for the private sector. The bottom chart shows growth in GDP per capita (per person).

What can we observe from these charts? First, when considering output generated by government, Wichita tracks right along with the average U.S. MSA.

But when looking at GDP generated by private industry, Wichita does worse than the average of U.S. MSAs. There are not many MSAs that perform worse than Wichita.

Considering GDP Per Capita, we see the same story: Wichita underperforms.

If you would rather measure jobs instead of gross domestic product, see here for charts that tell the same story in different words: Wichita economic development solution, postponed.

Even if we believe that an active role for government in economic development is best (and I don’t believe that), we have to conclude that our efforts aren’t working. Carl Brewer has been on the city council or served as mayor since 2001, which is the time period illustrated in these charts.

Brewer, most city council members, and the city’s bureaucratic staff believe in taking an active role in economic development. Their vote to approve such action today is another in a long line of efforts to improve the economic performance of Wichita.

But I would ask Mayor Brewer and the council: How can you argue that this record reflects success?

(Dollar amounts are in chained 2005 dollars to eliminate the effects of inflation. Each metropolitan area is indexed to start at 100% so we can see the relative rates of growth. Data from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The interactive version of this visualization is at Growth in Gross Domestic Product by metropolitan area.)


2 responses to “Wichita economic development: We can’t be satisfied with this”

  1. Red Queen

    Are there no term limits for city council tenure?
    It’s time for Brewer to go so that we might turn this economical disaster around or at least put the breaks on. I hope Key construction and BIll Warren have saved for a rainy day!!!

  2. Quintus

    Bob, why do you have such high expectations about the deliberations and decision making of our City elected officials? Mayor Brewer is NOT a leader and most on the City Council have not been very successful in the private sector either. Being elected to public office does not mean that you are a leader or that you are intelligent. It just means that you were elected. Often, the best people do not get elected and the one’s that do can’t afford to financially stay in office, nor are they willing to work with other ignorant and corrupt public officials.

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