by Nate Franson
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2018
Tenacity was the theme of Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer’s address to the Wichita Aero Club on November 7, 2017 in Wichita, Kansas. Dr. Colyer, 57, a Hays, Kansas native, is a surgeon, an aviator, and – pending the U.S. Senate’s approval of Gov. Brownback’s new role as Ambassador for Religious Freedom – the next governor of Kansas.
Dr. Colyer spoke to a crowd of over 100 members in attendance about the state’s aviation past, present and future. He recounted the beginnings of the industry, citing the early days of the Travel Air Manufacturing Company, the current business climate, and sharing part of his vision for how Kansas would remain competitive in an ever-evolving market. “We can compete, and we will compete,” he said, due in large part to the tenacity of Kansas aviators.
Dr. Colyer championed the pioneering spirit of such industry luminaries as Walter Beech, Lloyd Stearman, and Clyde Cessna, noting that their legacy continues in the hearts and minds of those people in the room. This enterprising spirit will be vital to compete in the global aviation market – with sources as close as Oklahoma, and as far away as China, building airplanes and providing the needed support infrastructure.
“The real strength of Kansans is tenacity. Tenacity is the common denominator of success and I think everybody in this room knows that measure,” he emphasized.
The Lieutenant Governor acknowledged that in order for the aviation industry to grow in the next decade, government needs to play ball. Dr. Colyer insisted that he and his fellow administrators will work with the industry to overcome challenges and increase productivity. Much of what he posited was focused on education – increasing focus on industrial arts programs and working to raise the competencies and skill levels of Kansans in order to provide a higher quality workforce for employers. To this end, Dr. Colyer shared the first steps state government is already taking, which is to increase funding for industrial arts and STEM-related programs in K-12 education, going so far as to say that many programs like that could be entirely state funded.
The increase in skilled labor would provide a more competitive foothold for additional aviation companies in Kansas, but it isn’t the only concept the Lt. Governor put forward. State government is working on securing better rates for both insurance plans and tax breaks for businesses, and encouraging an increase in capital expenditures to allow the industry to “grow and thrive.”
With a combined focus on collaborating with the aviation industry, working to provide a more skilled local labor force, and more nurturing business conditions for Kansas companies, the lieutenant governor painted a positive picture for Aero Club members. “Those of you in this room are absolutely essential to take us where we’re going over the next 10 years,” he concluded.
Dr. Colyer has declared his candidacy for governor in the 2018 race where, assuming Brownback’s ambassadorship is confirmed, he will be running as an incumbent (www.wichitaaeroclub.org).