After more than 80 years, the Boeing’s presence in Wichita has come down to a small crew tying up a few loose ends, and when they are done, fewer than a dozen maintenance workers will be the company’s only employees.
Employees currently are finalizing equipment that will be moved to other Boeing locations and closing out programs. When that work is done by the end of July, workers will maintain the massive Boeing facilities until they are sold, said Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Johnson-Jones.
Boeing has been in Wichita since 1927 and once employed 40,000 people. But in January 2012, it announced it would close its Wichita facilities and move work to Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the state of Washington, The Wichita Eagle reported. Boeing sold its commercial airplane division in 2005 and when it announced it would close its military operations, it still employed 2,160 people in Wichita.
The transfer of work is about 95 percent complete, Johnson-Jones said.
“It’s been very difficult to watch,” said Bob Brewer, Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace Midwest director, who joined Boeing in 1973. “To drive down Oliver and not being able to see that Boeing sign is something that myself and thousands in Wichita didn’t think we would ever see. There’s been a lot of careers come through those doors over the last 85-year period.”
Boeing has issued layoff notices each month during 2014.
“We’re losing people right and left,” said Frank Molina, Machinists union District 70 president and directing business representative. The union represents Boeing hourly workers, some of whom retired, were laid off, transferred to other Boeing facilities or took other jobs in Wichita.
Some potential buyers have contacted Boeing about its property, which includes a 325-acre flight line with hangars, storage and other buildings and an 85-acre office complex.
Tim Chase, president of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, said it might take some time but he is optimistic the “unique” property will be sold.