This Week in Congress
By U.S. Senator Jerry Moran
January 17, 2010
Welcome to "This Week in Congress." Next week, the U.S. Senate reconvenes and I will return to Washington, D.C., but while I'm in Kansas I have been traveling our state to visit with Kansans at town hall meetings, local businesses, universities and community civic clubs. I learn something from every conversation I have with Kansans and they truly impact the work I do in Washington.
Supporting Kansas Aviation Industry
The aviation industry in Kansas accounts for about 20 percent of the manufacturing employment in our state, providing jobs for tens of thousands of Kansans. In order to promote economic growth and create jobs in this important industry, and all businesses, Congress needs to create an environment of certainty. Businesses must have certainty about the tax code, the regulatory environment and their ability to finance in order to invest in their futures. This week, I made several stops involving the aviation industry to better understand how I can help ensure a brighter future for this industry and the Kansans it employs.
I was in Wichita on Thursday to visit one of our state's important general aviation companies, Hawker Beechcraft. I visited Hawker to thank the employees and leadership for choosing to remain in Kansas. Just a few weeks ago, Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture, then-Governor Mark Parkinson, and Mayor Carl Brewer of Wichita, announced an agreement between Hawker and state and local officials that will keep 4,000 jobs in Wichita for the next decade. This is an important development for Hawker employees and for the future of our state. The aviation industry is a vital part of our state's economy and this decision will not only strengthen our economy, but also lead to a better trained and equipped workforce.
As I toured Plant IV at Hawker, I enjoyed learning about the planes under construction and visiting with employees to answer questions and listen to concerns about the future of the aviation industry. Special thanks to Bill Brown, executive vice president of product delivery, for conducting the tour and Nicole Alexander, director of communications and public affairs, for arranging my visit.
National Center for Aviation Training
While I was in Wichita, I also toured the new National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT). NCAT was created to meet the changing workforce needs in the aviation and manufacturing industry and opened earlier this year in August. Students at NCAT are receiving hands-on training in the areas of general aviation manufacturing and aircraft and power plant mechanics in the new 230,000 square foot facility. Thanks to Chairman Dave Unruh of the Board of County Commissioners, President Tony Kinkel of Wichita Area Technical College, Workforce Director Marvin Duncan and Executive Director John Tomblin and Andy Schlapp of the National Institute of Aviation Research, for leading me on a tour of NCAT. The excellent work being done at this facility will build a skilled, professional aviation workforce that will help strengthen our state's economy.
Park Aircraft Technologies Corporation
Next, I had the pleasure of touring Park Aircraft Technologies Corporation (PATC). Located at the Newton City-County Airport, the 92,000 square foot manufacturing facility is home to 25 employees that develop and produce advanced composite materials and assemblies for the aircraft and space vehicle industries. PATC's parent company, Park Electrochemical Corporation, established its Kansas presence in March of 2009 as part of its general entry into the aerospace industry. During my visit I enjoyed learning about plans to bring additional company operations to the Newton facility and, along with it, more quality jobs to the area. This plant is having a positive impact on the local community, which is good news for our state. Special thanks to PACT President Mark Esquivel and his impressive team of employees for their hospitality. Thank you also to President Larry Williams and Executive Director Mickey Fornaro-Dean of the Harvey County Economic Development Council, for arranging such an informative visit.
K-State in Salina
On Thursday morning, I met with administrators and faculty at Kansas State University (K-State) Salina. I was briefed by Dean Dennis Kuhlman on recent progress in the development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology at K-State Salina's UAV laboratory. I learned that K-State's Unmanned Aircraft Systems program is recognized as one of the top five programs in the nation. Important partnerships like that of the Salina Airport Authority and the Kansas National Guard are part of what makes K-State Salina's program one of excellence.
As the role of UAV systems becomes ever more important, so does research and development of these technologies -- and K-State Salina has taken its place as a pioneer in the field. I am proud that such groundbreaking research is taking place within the heart of our state. Thanks to Dennis Kuhlman, Kurt Barnhart, Josh Brungardt, Eric Shappee, Rich Brown, Mark Frieesen, Sue Peterson and Phillip Harner for their hospitality during my visit.
Annual Listening Tour Stop in Sumner County
My annual listening tour continued this week with a stop in Sumner County. On Friday morning, I traveled to the local public library in Wellington to visit with area residents. I appreciated visiting with Kansans about a number of issues, including the growing national debt, government spending, the new health care reform law, and job creation. What I hear from Kansans during my town hall meetings plays a very important role in my work in Washington. I appreciated the opportunity to answer questions and update local residents on the latest developments in Congress.
Honoring Veterans of the Battle of Bulge at Manhattan Reunion
On Saturday, Robba and I attended the Second Annual Northeast Kansas Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Reunion at the American Legion in Manhattan. This special event presented a wonderful opportunity to express our gratitude for the sacrifices made by so many veterans over 66 years ago in the largest and bloodiest battle of World War II. In December 1944, more than 200,000 German troops and 1,000 German tanks launched an attack on Allied forces, seeking to divide the armies. American soldiers courageously fought back in the bitter winter of the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and were ultimately victorious in stopping Hitler's army. More than 19,000 Americans lost their lives that day in the pursuit of freedom.
We have the privilege of living in the country we do today because of the sacrifices made by our nation's veterans. It is important to remember that our troops have worn the uniform not for political reasons, but because they loved their country and believed our freedoms were worth fighting to preserve. Elected officials should also remember that public service is not about scoring political points, but about serving our country. It was an honor to spend part of the day with many Kansas veterans and their families. Thanks especially to Jim Sharp, and all the Northeast Kansas Battle of the Bulge Veterans Committee members for their kindness and hospitality during my visit.
Welcoming Home Commanding General Brooks at Fort Riley
Earlier this month, 1st Infantry Division Commanding General Vincent Brooks and the Big Red One's Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq. On Wednesday, I attended a welcome home reception at Ft. Riley for Major Brooks. Based in Basra, the 1st Infantry Division was responsible for U.S. Forces operating in Iraq's nine southern provinces. Their efforts saw success, including overseeing the drawdown of U.S. forces, assisting Iraqi Security Forces with building up facilities and security measures that protect the border with Iran, and managing civilian projects such as the completion of the Basra Children's Hospital.I commend the service of the 1st Infantry Division soldiers and extend to each of them a well-deserved welcome home and thank you. Thanks especially to General Brooks and his wife Carol for their leadership and for the invitation to visit post.
Visiting Kansas Soybean Association Expo and Topeka Farm Show
On Wednesday, I was in Topeka to speak at the Kansas Soybean Association (KSA) Expo Luncheon, held at the Kansas Expocentre. I spoke about the importance of production agriculture to our state and my dedication to preserving family farms for future generations. If we want strong schools, growing businesses and vibrant communities, we must make sure farmers and ranchers in our state have the opportunity to prosper. When agriculture is successful, Kansas is successful.
Following the KSA event, I spoke with Kansans and visited booths at the Topeka Farm Show. This annual event attracts more than 30,000 attendees each year and includes more than 300 exhibiting companies, 550 booths and daily leadership seminars produced by the Shawnee County Extension and Kansas State University. The farm show is a great way for Kansans to learn more about the importance of agriculture in our state. Thanks to Dennis Hupe, all the KSA board, staff and members for their warm welcome and hospitality at the event.
Visiting Caterpillar Work Tools Plant in Wamego
Following my visit to the Topeka Farm Show, I traveled to Wamego to meet with managers at Caterpillar Global Work Tools and Services and to tour the facility. I enjoyed meeting with employees who manufacture many of the industrial products that contribute directly to the economic growth across our state and country. During my visit, the managers told me there are several steps that Congress can take to help American businesses remain competitive on a global scale, including reforming our federal tax code, approving trade agreements with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea, and improving vocational education. These common sense measures will help make sure Kansas businesses can remain successful. Thanks to Joe Hutt, John Schuetz, Bob Hunter, Bob Astolfi and Shannon Phillips of Caterpillar Global Work Tools and Services for the opportunity to visit the Wamego facility.
Haiti Still Recovering One Year after Earthquake
Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti on January 12, 2010. That tragic event killed 230,000 people and left more than a million Haitians homeless and thousands more orphaned.
Kansans were quick to help after the earthquake, with many donating money and volunteering their time to help those affected. One Kansas-based organization in particular -- Numana, Inc. -- mobilized thousands of Kansans to help those in need. Numana is a hunger relief organization based in El Dorado that captures the compassion and energy of volunteers to package meals for delivery to hungry people around the world. Numana's first packaging event was held on December 29, 2009, in El Dorado. Four thousand citizens turned out to pack a 40-foot shipping crate with more than 285,000 meals. The volunteers had no idea how badly the food they packaged would be needed just two weeks later. After the earthquake struck, Numana held more than 30 packaging events across Kansas to send food to Haiti, sending a total of 21 million meals to the country in crisis last year.
This week, I had the opportunity to thank George Myers, Numana's Director of Development, and Caleb McNary for involving Kansans in the Haiti relief effort at Friday's Wellington town hall meeting.
Numana - Sumner
The efforts of groups like Numana, Inc. and the individual assistance of Kansans has helped ease the suffering in Haiti. The anniversary of the earthquake is a reminder, though, that more work is needed to help Haiti recover.
Touring Godfrey's Range in Junction City
While I was in Junction City this week, I stopped by Godfrey's Indoor Shooting and Archery Ranges. This new state-of-the-art indoor range is ranked among the top 5 percent of all indoor shooting ranges in the nation. As a police officer, Todd Godfrey recognized the need for a training facility for law enforcement, military, security personnel and recreational shooters alike, and built the range with this goal in mind. With this new advanced training center, the Godfrey family established a family business that provides a valuable public service to our public safety personnel. Thanks to Todd, Ronna and Trenton Godfrey for their hospitality during my visit. Thanks also to Rick Dykstra of the Geary County Convention and Visitors Bureau for helping organize the event.
Attending the Kansas State University Men's Basketball Game in Manhattan
This weekend, I had the opportunity to watch the K-State men's basketball team take on the visiting Red Raiders of Texas Tech at Bramlage Coliseum. I joined thousands of Kansans from across the state in supporting Frank Martin and his team. I also enjoyed visiting with many students, alumni and Wildcats fans during the game. The Wildcats were victorious, winning by a score of 94-60. My thanks go to K-State President Kirk Schulz and his wife Noel as well as K-State's Athletic Director John Currie for hosting me.
Speaking with Students at Kapaun Mt. Carmel in Wichita
At the invitation of government teacher David Roberts, I had the opportunity to visit with students in his class at Wichita's Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School in Wichita. I enjoyed speaking with students about a range of issues: the national debt, taxes, trade policy with China, and the status of our economy. Two of the folks who work for you in my Washington, D.C. office, Todd Novascone and Brian Perkins, are graduates of Mt. Carmel. A special thanks to David Roberts and the students and faculty of Kapaun for their hospitality during my visit.
Visiting Derby Rotary
On Friday, I was kindly welcomed by the members of the Derby Rotary Club as their keynote speaker, and had the opportunity to discuss my experience being sworn in to the United States Senate and the upcoming agenda for Congress. As to be expected, the Derby Rotary members were anxious to discuss many of the challenges facing our nation, including health care reform. I shared my concern with the health care bill, which will have far-reaching consequences on the lives of Kansans and our entire economy. I am grateful for the kindness shown by Club President Gregg Lesh and all members of the Derby Rotary.
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance.
Very truly yours,