WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — After more than 85 years in Wichita, Boeing recently auctioned off thousands of items from its hangars as the airplane manufacturer takes the final steps in its exodus from Kansas.
At one time Boeing employed as many as 40,000 people in Wichita, and for decades was the state’s largest private employer. But most of the work has been moved to Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Seattle area, and the majority of the 2,100 employees in Wichita have moved with Boeing, have been laid off or have retired, The Wichita Eagle reported.
The Wichita crews built parts for commercial jets and maintained and modified military aircraft. But in 2005, Boeing shuttered the commercial aircraft division, the largest portion of its Wichita operation, while it retained its military work at the site. Boeing announced in 2012 it was closing its Wichita facilities and held a large auction last week.
“We were looking at our business and where we saw defense budgets moving . and concluded that the scale of the operation in comparison to the work statement was inconsistent,” said Scott Strode, Boeing’s vice president and general manager of maintenance, modifications and upgrades for Boeing’s Global Services and Support division.
A small crew has been working to tie up loose ends at the site, but Boeing says much of that will be finished by the end of this week.
Joe Mitchem, a maintenance mechanic, said he worked for Boeing Wichita for 36 years before being laid off a month ago.
“I saw a lot of airplanes come through here,” Mitchem said last week inside one of three hangars where the auction was held. He helped ship some of the equipment to other sites.
“It was emotionally tough kicking it all out the door,” Mitchem said.
Gary Plummer, president and CEO of the Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce, said Boeing will still have an impact on Wichita through its large base of area suppliers.
“Based on that, I hope that Boeing will always maintain a community relationship,” he said. “We’ve certainly seen that thus far at the chamber.”