Wichita job growth and Visioneering peers


Wichita has set ambitious goals in job growth, but it doesn’t seem that the Visioneering program has produced results. But apparently Wichita government officials are satisfied.

In 2004 Wichita leaders created Visioneering Wichita. The self-described goals of Visioneering are “To provide citizen input in developing our future, to facilitate communications so reality and perceptions are aligned, and to create a strategic plan that ensures a quality of life and encourages our young people to live, learn, work and play in our regional community.”

One of the benchmarks of Visioneering is “Exceed the highest of the annual percentage job growth rate of the U.S., Omaha, Tulsa, Kansas City and Oklahoma City.”

In May, Suzie Ahlstrand of the Wichita Chamber of Commerce presented Wichita City Council members with the benchmark documents, but didn’t elaborate on these in her presentation.

I can understand her reluctance to focus on these numbers. They’re not good.

We don’t know what the Wichita economy would look like in the absence of Visioneering. There’s no way to rewind and watch what would have happened had Visioneering not been created.

What we do know, however, is that the Wichita-area economy is not performing well. Consider job growth, since that is the first of Visioneering’s benchmarks. The chart Visioneering presented to council members is available here. It’s a difficult chart to read, and doesn’t lend to ready comparison of how Wichita is doing compared to our peers.

Following are charts I created from similar data. These charts are different from Visioneering’s in that they show the cumulative change in job growth from a starting point. My data goes back to 2001, and since the visualization is interactive, you may adjust the range of years.

Here is a static chart of job growth, considering all jobs. (Click for a larger version.)

Wichita and Peer Job Growth, Total Employment

Here is a static chart of job growth, this time considering only government jobs. (Click for a larger version.)

Wichita and Peer Job Growth, Government Employment

Can we be satisfied with this performance? Considering all jobs types, Wichita is in last place. There are those who might take comfort that when including government jobs, Wichita does better. But as growth in the government sector outpaces growth in the private sector, Wichita becomes less prosperous than if we were creating private sector jobs.

In the light of this, consider the reaction of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, as presented in the official minutes: “Mayor Brewer stated this is one of the smartest moves that the City of Wichita has done because it was the primary catalyst that pulled the public and the private together and laid out a vision for our City.”

Other council members also expressed enthusiastic approval for Visioneering. (For coverage of all council members’ reactions, see Wichita city council reacts to Visioneering presentation.)

We need to ask, however, these questions: First, were the mayor and council members aware of these job creation numbers? Second, if they were aware, are they satisfied with this performance?

Explore the data yourself by using the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work better for some people. Use Ctrl+Click to highlight metropolitan areas for comparison. Data is from Bureau of Economic Analysis by way of U.S. Department of Labor. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.


3 responses to “Wichita job growth and Visioneering peers”

  1. Hans Christian Anderson must have been anticipating City of Wichita’s official review of this data when he wrote “The Emporer’s New Clothes.”

  2. BD

    Wichita is in last and OKC in first because OKC raided the aircraft industry by getting Boeing to move south, not to mention some of the others.

    On your government jobs benchmark your analysis doesn’t seem to match your charts. Isn’t the government sector declining? So “…when looking at government jobs, Wichita does better” doesn’t really seem to fit, either in actuality or comparatively in your charts. (Wichita just got the tanker base deal, though, so that should help.)

    I think everyone would agree well paying private sector jobs are the best. But sometimes when you have a fork in the government pie you need to run it for all it’s worth, and that means defense, logistics and aircraft. So I wouldn’t be so quick to toss out the government in Wichita’s case. Government defense, logistics and aircraft contracts lead to cross purpose applications with the private sector and give the chance to build private investment and sustainability without government work. I think I’ve even seen articles about Wichita demonstrating how well that has worked.

    Private sector jobs are occurring, but not as well in Wichita when compared elsewhere. Those aren’t exactly peer to peer comparisons, but probably don’t need to be. The fact of the matter is outside of Kansas City NO ONE in Kansas is doing as good as elsewhere on job creation, except a few spots in southwest Kansas and the border due to oil and gas. That is ridiculous when you compare costs and operating environments elsewhere, particularly the northeast and California.

    And speaking of California, they shot themselves in the foot and Arizona and Nevada are picking up the industry moving east. Did anyone in Wichita even contact one of those industries? No one at the state level did. Isn’t that a problem?

    I don’t think a ‘visioning’ process will turn that much up, though. It isn’t really needed. You already know where Wichita’s strengths lie. WSU is a great think tank source.

    Get back the industry and the rest comes naturally. Get it without stepping on other Kansas cities and everybody does well. Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats. I don’t think Wichita has done enough to capitalize on its aircraft manufacturing technology and history, particularly when it hasn’t partnered with other Kansas cities to cooperate symbiotically in a piece for all using the strengths each offers, and when foreign companies are buying and beating it.

  3. Lydia

    As a think tank I have found WSU to prove whatever it is they are contracted for. what a joke!!!!!

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