Welcome to "Kansas Common Sense." Last week I introduced my new and improved weekly newsletter. Based on your feedback, I worked to make the newsletter more interactive, so I can hear your thoughts and you can learn more about the work I am doing in Washington and in our state.
Thank you to everyone who participated in last week's poll on the Boeing Tanker competition, took the time to read my articles of interest, and submitted questions as part of the new Ask Jerry feature. I received numerous questions, and although I cannot get to them all, I hope you enjoy reading my answers to a few of your questions in this week's issue.
Thanks again for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if you think it would interest them as well.
Boeing Victory a Decade in the Making
On Thursday, I received a call from Michael Donley, the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, announcing the decision to award the $35 billion KC-X aerial refueling tanker contract to Boeing, ending nearly a decade of delay and handing a victory to our airmen and women who will no longer have to depend upon an Eisenhower-era tanker fleet. Replacing our aging tanker fleet is essential to the security of our country and safety of our troops, and Kansas workers stand ready to build the next generation of refueling tankers for our military.
Wichita has long been known as the "Air Capital of the World,' and it will now have the opportunity to live up to that reputation as thousands of skilled Kansans get to work on converting Boeing 767 aircraft into military tankers. Supporting 7,500 Kansas jobs with an annual economic impact of $388 million, the contract is great news for our state and will bring much-needed jobs to the aviation industry, which has been hit particularly hard during the economic recession.
This victory is a credit to the effort of the Kansas Congressional delegation who have worked diligently over the last ten years with countless conversations, calls, letters and pieces of legislation to promote a fair tanker competition and make sure the right choice was made for America's military, taxpayers and workers. I look forward to the day when Boeing tankers are coming off the Wichita production lines and being flown by the airmen and women at McConnell and Forbes Air Force bases.
Small Businesses are the Backbone of the Kansas Economy
As a newly appointed member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I am committed to being a strong advocate for small businesses in our state. On Tuesday, I visited R-Tech Tool and Machine in Wamego to learn about this small business that employs 35 Kansans. Open since 1992, R-Tech Tool and Machine is a full service machine and fabrication shop owned by Doug Routh. During my visit, I learned about the importance of new technology to the company and R-Tech Tool and Machine's commitment to the community. My conversation with Doug and R-Tech Tool and Machine employees gave me new insight into the challenges small businesses face. I look forward to taking this information back to the Small Business Committee and working with my colleagues to support businesses like R-Tech Tool and Machine.
Kansas Chamber Annual Dinner
I was pleased to join the members of the Kansas Chamber for their annual dinner this week. It's always nice to spend time with business owners of both small and large companies to hear their stories and listen to their concerns, and I was impressed so many people were in attendance -- especially considering it had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather three weeks ago. Black and Veatch, a great Kansas company, was awarded the "Ad Astra" award this year. The Kansas Chamber presents this award annually to one business that exemplifies both business and civic excellence within the state. With the work Black and Veatch does globally on infrastructure development, it's hard to think of a more deserving recipient.
The event was emceed by Governor Brownback and the keynote speaker was Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, radio show host, and Fox Business Network contributor. Mr. Cain spoke movingly about the American dream and how government too often stifles innovation and entrepreneurship. It's always a pleasure to be with the Kansas Chamber and their members, and I wish them continued success growing and expanding our state's economy.
Visiting Overland Park Medical Center
On Thursday, I visited Overland Park Regional Medical Center to learn how the hospital serves the health care needs of the Overland Park community and the surrounding areas. This 343-bed facility has offered acute and outpatient medical care services since 1978. The hospital campus features four medical office buildings, two pharmacies, and the offices of more than 100 physicians. The medical center provides emergency services, a regional Trauma Center, an accredited Chest Pain Center, The Women's Center with Level IIIB NICU, the Human Motion Institute, advanced diagnostic imaging, a Diabetes Center, and many other specialty care services.
Thank you to CEO Gay Nord and members of the medical staff for giving me a tour of the facility. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss issues including the Food and Drug Administration's procedures for approving new treatments and medicines, regulations governing the approval of new medical technology, and the specialized care required for cardiac patients.
Visiting with Kansas City Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Following my tour of Overland Park Regional Medical Center, I met several Kansas children representing the Kansas City Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to learn more about how type 1 diabetes affects the daily lives of children and the research efforts of JDRF. The mission of JDRF is to find a cure for diabetes and its health complications through the support of research. Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has awarded more than $1.5 billion to diabetes research and research-related education. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects children and adults, and can lead to additional health complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke, and amputation. While working toward a cure for diabetes, one of the primary research goals is to develop products that can improve blood glucose control so individuals can live healthier lives with less risk of developing disease-related complications. Thanks to Betty VanderArk and other members of the Kansas City JDRF chapter for organizing this meeting.
Visiting Sedan City Hospital
On Friday, I was in southeast Kansas to tour Sedan City Hospital, a 25-room general medical and surgical facility caring for Kansans in and around Chautauqua County. The hospital provides a wide range of services, including specialized services for elderly and disabled patients. It is one of three hospitals run by Jane Phillips Medical Center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and part of Saint John's Hospital network. This affiliation provides a network of specialists that Sedan City Hospital can refer Kansas patients to for a wide range of care. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this past January, the hospital recently opened a new wound care clinic and plans to obtain a new CT scanner soon which will allow for more diagnostic procedures to be performed there.
Thank you to Michelle Williams, Sedan City Hospital administrator; Jason McCauley, regional administrator for Jane Phillips; Sam Guild, Jane Phillips vice president; and Mary Webb, RN, for coordinating the tour and hosting me. It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss rural health care access issues and the importance of attracting and retaining skilled medical professionals to rural towns in Kansas.
Visiting the Independence Community
I also had the opportunity to make two stops in Independence this week, at the invitation of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a native of Independence. We toured the Cessna Aircraft Company facility which assembles, paints, and installs interiors and delivers several of the single engine piston models produced by Cessna: the 172 Skyhawk, the 182 Skylane and the 206 Stationair. Independence also produces the Citation Mustang. Cessna is the leading designer and manufacturer of light and midsize business jets, utility turboprops and single engine aircraft. The company employs more than 8,500 individuals worldwide and conducts billions of dollars in orders. Thanks to Dick Friesen, Value Stream Manager for the Mustang line, for showing me around the facility.
As a fellow Rotarian, I also appreciated having the opportunity to speak with members of the Independence Rotary Club and thank them for the service they provide to their community. I shared with the members my desire to protect our special way of life in rural Kansas, and answered questions about health care reform, government over-regulation, education and term limits. Thanks again to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt for inviting me to attend.
Attending the Pittsburg State v. Fort Hays State Basketball Game
This week I enjoyed a basketball game with leaders from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, including Steve Robb, special assistant to Pitt State President Dr. Steve Scott; Joan Cleland, administrative assistant to the president; and John Patterson, vice president for administration and campus life. The university set a record high spring enrollment with 6,754 students. It was an exciting game with Fort Hays State Tigers' Moses Dayee scoring a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left, carrying the No. 17 ranked Fort Hays State Tigers to a 70-63 victory over the Pitt State Gorillas.
Statewide Listening Tour
I continued my listening tour this week and hosted six town halls in the following counties: Anderson, Neosho, Crawford, Bourbon, Linn and Ness. Residents came to share their thoughts with me on a wide variety of topics, including the burden of federal regulations on our community banks, America's dependence on foreign oil and the unrest in the Arab world, immigration policy, the health care bill, and our rapidly increasing national debt.
I share many of their concerns, and just last week addressed the importance of small community financial institutions at my first Senate Banking Committee hearing. I made a point to ask the panel why -- since these small financial institutions were not a cause of the financial meltdown that shook our economy -- they were being subjugated to the enormous amount of federal regulations. The regulations being proposed in Washington are preventing small banks in Kansas from making loans to credit worthy borrowers within our state. I also strongly believe we must rein in out-of-control spending before it causes even more damage to the prosperity of future generations. I appreciated how many residents came to meet with me and always take their concerns back to Washington with me.
Thanks to the many individuals who helped arrange the details of my visits: Linda Weidert with the Erie Chamber of Commerce and Mary Hines; Gary Embry, Girard City Administrator and Terri Harley, Girard Public Library Director; Lindsay Madison with the Fort Scott Chamber of Commerce and Bob Beckham, Fort Scott High School Principal; and Jeff Dawson, Mound City Chamber of Commerce President. I'd also like to thank Neosho County Sheriff James Keath and Mary Alice Lair for visiting my Neosho County tour stop and Girard Mayor Maurice Harley and Arma City Council Member Jeff Locke for stopping by my Crawford County stop.