We’re known as part of America’s Breadbasket, but more people in Kansas work in manufacturing than in agriculture. Top companies like Cessna, SpiritAerosystems and General Motors locate here because they know Kansas is a leader in supporting advanced manufacturing through education, business incentives and a positive business climate. Our successes are evident. Kansas leads the world in aviation manufacturing. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s embedded aviation fleet was manufactured in our state, where over a quarter million aircraft have been produced since 1919. In addition, the GM plant in Kansas City, Kansas is consistently one of the company’s most productive assembly plants in North America.
In addition, Kansas has one of only five true composite clusters in the world and Wichita is the home of the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), where 70 percent of all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) composites research is conducted. This strength in composites can be transferred to other products, such as medical devices, assisted by the Center for Innovative Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research (CIBOR).
In a similar manner, plastics manufacturing is supported by the Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg State University. Kansas has the only plastics and rubber products cluster in the entire United States that has both product manufacturing and process manufacturing capabilities combined in the same region. Kansas not only makes a variety of extruded, formed and injection-molded products, but we also research and refine the processes that make those products.
“Advanced manufacturing” is difficult to define given the diversity of production activities in Kansas. However, whether in the aviation, plastics or agricultural sectors, there is a common thread of advanced techniques used for precision manufacturing, that is performed with the newest materials and supported by in-state centers of national prominence. Add in effective business incentives, competitive utility rates, a high standard of living and excellent, innovative business environment and it’s a winning formula.
Aircraft and its components are vital to Kansas’ economy, and south-central Kansas hosts the world’s best known aviation cluster. The Wichita area has several original equipment manufacturers including Bombardier Learjet; Cessna Aircraft and Beechcraft. Home also to Spirit Aerosystems and to the largest Airbus engineering center outside of Europe, the state offers one of the largest aerospace labor pools and supplier networks in the world.
Our labor supply is boosted by advanced degrees in aviation maintenance and aerospace engineering offered at Wichita State University, Kansas State University’s College of Technology and Aviation in Salina and the University of Kansas in Lawrence, respectively. In addition, our new National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) provides advanced general manufacturing training, and NIAR at Wichita State University is the largest aerospace research and development academic institution in the nation.
South-central Kansas is rapidly developing an industrial cluster of firms in the field of advanced or “engineered” materials (composites) and polymers (advanced plastics and elastomers). Due to our rich history in aviation, our state’s major aircraft companies have been involved in composite aircraft component design and fabrication for many years. This expertise in advanced materials also applies to other key industries such as medical devices, automotive components, wind turbines, marine applications, construction materials, machinery, scientific instrumentation and consumer products.
In addition, NIAR has an extensive research staff and advanced research and testing laboratories, including those for composites and advanced materials. The FAA has designated it the lead institution of the Center of Excellence in Composites & Advanced Materials. Kansas also has some of the most specialized equipment in the world for metal and composite material fabrication due to our comprehensive network of suppliers to the aviation industry.