Wichita’s Key STAR Bonds Didn’t Create New Jobs

Wichita’s Key STAR Bonds Didn’t Create New Jobs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wichita’s Key STAR Bonds Didn’t Create New Jobs
Research Around Riverwalk, K96/Greenwich Largely Moved Existing Jobs

August 31 – A new report suggests that two of Wichita’s leading development projects, driven by economic development incentives, did not improve job creation.

“It may be natural for policymakers to push for development by ribbon-cutting, but this analysis clearly shows it doesn’t create new jobs,” said James Franko, president of Kansas Policy Institute. “At best, these incentives capture existing growth within an area but do so at a cost to taxpayers.”

Art Hall of the Brandmeyer Center at the University of Kansas’ School of Business researched two STAR Bond projects in Wichita.

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Franko says of the study, “The research aims to help the Wichita community understand the limits of incentive-driven development as we hope for a post-pandemic recovery  and evaluate flagship development such as Century II.”

The analysis focused on STAR Bonds as the data for these projects is easier to gather. Data availability of CID, TIFs, and other incentive programs is harder to obtain.

Franko continued, “The access to this data is in desperate need of reform. It’s troubling that a more thorough analysis of other incentives is all but impossible. We should be judging every taxpayer dollar spent on actual outcomes, not simply the aspirations of those asking for the money.”

Art Hall, the author of the paper, said, “I undertook this project with KPI to develop a data-driven understanding of Wichita’s economic history and economic growth potential.  Economic development strategies advanced by the community – elected leaders, businesses, and individual citizens – should be informed by an understanding of how economies grow.”

After the Riverwalk STAR Bond was finalized, the district had no influence on overall job change in the larger zip code areas. The job growth in the Star Bond district of the K96/Greenwich development area pales in comparison to job growth in nearby zip codes. Job growth in those adjacent areas leveled off after the development of the STAR Bond.

The new study provides a historical analysis for the Wichita aerospace cluster and the efforts taken to revitalize downtown and diversify the regional economy. This review is also undertaken by comparing Wichita to other peer cities like Des Moines, Tulsa, Omaha, and others.

Dr. Hall writes in summary, “Understanding economic development as an organic process driven by trial-and-error, rather than a mechanistic process driven by strategic planning and engineering, offers a crucial perspective for concerned citizens seeking to enhance Wichita’s economic future through civic-minded endeavors like Project Wichita. The primary driver of regional economic growth relates to the formation of new businesses (or activation of existing businesses) that grow quickly because they have discovered – by luck or design – a market with under-served demand.”

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CONTACT: Ellen Hathaway, Communications Director of KPI at Ellen.Hathaway@kansaspolicy.org

Kansas Policy Institute is an educational and research organization. We engage citizens and policy makers with research and information to enact public policy solutions that protect the constitutional right to freedom of all Kansans.