Faced with defense budget reductions, the Boeing Co. announced Wednesday it will close its defense plant in Wichita by the end of 2013.
The closure will cost more than 2,160 workers their jobs and end the firm's presence in a city where it has been a major employer for generations.
The decision was not entirely unexpected. The company said in November it was studying whether to close the Wichita facility, which specializes in modifying commercial aircraft for military or government operations, to address Defense Department budget cuts. The first layoffs are expected to begin in the third quarter of 2012.
The company said it was moving future aircraft maintenance, modification and support to its plant in San Antonio, Texas, and engineering work to Oklahoma City. Work on the Air Force refueling tanker will be performed in Puget Sound, Wash. The company said the 24 Kansas suppliers on that program will continue to provide parts as originally planned.
"In this time of defense budget reductions, as well as shifting customer priorities, Boeing has decided to close its operations in Wichita to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and drive competitiveness," said Mark Bass, vice president and general manager for the Boeing Defense, Space & Security facility in Wichita.
The study came even as the Pentagon had been working to prevent $500 billion in automatic, across-the-board defense budget cuts over 10 years in the wake of the failure by a bipartisan congressional supercommittee to agree on $1.2 trillion or more in deficit reductions.
Wichita had hoped the number of jobs at the facility would grow after Boeing won a contract worth at least $35 billion to build 179 Air Force refueling tankers. The modification work on the planes had been expected to be done at Boeing's Wichita plant — bringing with it 7,500 direct and indirect jobs with an overall economic impact of nearly $390 million.
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