WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Boeing Co.'s decision to close its Wichita defense plant will likely benefit Airbus' operations in Kansas' largest city because it will be able to hire talented former Boeing employees, a top Airbus official said Monday.
Airbus Americas chairman Allan McArtor spoke during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Airbus' engineering center in Wichita. The Airbus center had 27 engineers when it first opened and now employs more than 350 people.
Wichita touts itself as the "Air Capital of the World" and is home to facilities for Airbus and its biggest competitor, Boeing, as well as major plants for Spirit AeroSystems, Cessna, Bombardier, Hawker Beechcraft and more than a hundred smaller aircraft suppliers.
"There is a reason we are here: location, location, location," McArtor said. "This is where the talent is, this is the heartland of aviation."
Airbus' growth in Wichita has been one of the few recent bright spots for aviation-dependent Wichita. More than 13,000 aircraft workers here have lost their jobs since the 2008 start of the last recession, which pummeled sales of the small and mid-size business jets made by three of Wichita's major manufacturing facilities. Hawker Beechcraft filed for bankruptcy protection last month.
Boeing announced earlier this year that it will shut down its Wichita defense plant operations by the end of 2013 and send work to plants in three other states. Boeing employs 2,160 people in Wichita, where it has been a major employer for generations.
"I would imagine that Boeing's decision will have some favorable impact to us and that there will be some talent we could add to our team here," McArtor told reporters Monday. "We don't have any plans or interest right now in any of the physical facilities, but we know our supply chain is likely to be attracted to it. But sure, we would expect to get some good people."
Airbus' anniversary event outside its downtown Wichita facilities attracted Gov. Sam Brownback, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and other dignitaries who lauded the company's decision a decade ago to locate and expand in Wichita.
Airbus has long been Boeing's biggest competitor in the commercial airliner market. EADS is a European holding company, with joint French-German management and based in the Netherlands. Airbus Americas Engineering says it helps engineer the entire product line at its facilities in Wichita and Mobile, Ala.
Brownback, who wore a bright blue Airbus company polo shirt for the event, said the state will work with anyone who wants to build in Kansas.
"This is the air capital of the world — it is not the air capital of the U.S. or Kansas," Brownback said. "This is a global industry."