Comings and goings in the News: Boeing, Langston, Laster

Yesterday (Wednesday, January 4), officials with one of America’s major aerospace companies disclosed plans to shutter the Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS) facility in Wichita, Kansas, shifting jobs to Oklahoma City and other sites around the United States. Oklahoma officials said the relocations are ratification of the state’s pro-growth and pro-business policies. 

The news from Mark Bass, vice president and general manager for BDS’ Maintenance, Modifications & Upgrades division, came in a nationwide press release sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations.

In his statement, Bass said, “In this time of defense budget reductions, as well as shifting customer priorities, Boeing has decided to close its operations in Wichita to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and drive competitiveness. We will begin program transitions in the coming months, with the complete closure of the site scheduled for the end of 2013. We do not anticipate job reductions as a result of this decision until early in the third quarter of 2012.”
The BDS facility in Wichita has more than 2,160 employees; some 800 of those jobs will be transferred to Oklahoma City. San Antonio and Puget Sound (in Washington state) will also gain jobs, but officials said Boeing will retain commercial aircraft operations in Kansas. 
Reacting to the news, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin highlighted the transfer of engineering operations to Oklahoma City: “This is a difficult time for Boeing employees who have been impacted by the decision to close the Wichita facility, and my heart goes out to those men and women.

“However, as with the recent relocation of Boeing staff from California to the Boeing Oklahoma City facility, our state stands ready to welcome all employees and their families who will now call Oklahoma home. Oklahoma City is a wonderful community and a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.”
Fallin asserted, “It’s a tribute to Oklahoma’s progress and forward momentum that we have been chosen as a relocation site.”

Speaker of the House Kris Steele, a Shawnee Republican, said the job relocations are “going to give our economy another nice boost.” This and other recent economic news send a national message “that Oklahoma is open for business.”

Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman, a Sapulpa Republican, reflected the announcement “confirms what we already knew; our state has become a magnet for high-profile businesses seeking a pro-jobs climate.” He noted the relocation “comes on the heels of Boeing’s earlier decision to bring 550 additional jobs to our state from California.”

Sen. Dan Newberry, a Tulsa Republican serving as chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, said, “Aerospace is a crucial component of Oklahoma’s economy and we’ve worked hard to create an environment to attract even more jobs. … As chairman of the Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee, I believe this is a very positive sign that we are on the right track.”
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At the Thursday, January 12 meeting of the OSU A&M Board of Regents, Four finalists will be interviewed for the vacant president’s position. 

Andrew Lester, an Edmond attorney and OSU A&M regent, has served as chairman of the search committee. In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK Wednesday (January 4), he commented, “A number of impressive candidates from across the country applied for the presidency of Langston University.

“The interest in the position underscores the attractiveness of the opportunity to lead one of the finest, historic black universities in our country. The four finalists are each enthusiastic about the future of Langston University and the potential opportunity to lead it into a new era.”
The four finalists are:
– Dr. Phillip D. Birdine, president of Western Oklahoma State College in Altus.
– Dr. Myron L. Pope, vice president of enrollment management at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.
– Dr. Kent J. Smith, Jr., vice president for student affairs and chief student affairs officer at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
– Dr. Charles Williams, vice president for academic affairs at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Maryland.
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State Sen. Charlie Laster, a Shawnee Democrat, said, in a press release sent last month to CapitolBeatOK, he will not seek reelection in 2012. While he could have served one more term if reelected (not facing the state’s 12-year term limit until 2016), Laster said he plans to focus on his legal practice and family.

Laster was Democratic leader in the upper chamber in 2009, when CapitolBeatOK began its operations. Always accessible and unfailingly courteous to journalists, he was helpfully quotable in his reflections. 
Laster said his time in public office (which began in 2003) was “exciting and challenging” from the beginning. 

Among other jobs, he was the Senate’s lawyer during impeachment of Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher in 2004. He was co-Floor Leader during the unprecedented two year period when Republicans and Democrats each held 24 seats in the upper chamber.

Saying, “you never know,” Laster indicated he might, “at some point down the road,” seek a final four-year term.