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Optimism among Wichita businesses

If you missed the recent Wichita Area Economic Outlook Conference, there was good news and not-so-good news to share.

Jeremy Hill, the head of WSU’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research, predicted that the Wichita area next year would see 3,360 new jobs, a 1.1 percent increase.

In other words, more of the same slow growth seen in Wichita over the past five years; the city has added just 10,000 jobs since 2011.

The report also predicted Kansas employment next year will grow 1.4 percent, which would mean 19,958 new jobs in Kansas.

Becky Tuttle, of HealthICT, an affiliate of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, told the Wichita Eagle she wasn’t surprised by the forecast, but found the news motivating, rather than discouraging.

“I don’t think it’s depressing,” she said. “It provides us additional opportunities. We all know that things could be better and, if we all focus, together we can make that happen.”

Brian Baker, the owner of Advertising Images, also said he thought next year would be better.

“Definitely hope so,” he said. “We’re optimistic.”

Builders Plus Construction CEO Chris Callen said his commercial construction business has started to thaw, and that people with projects put on hold since the recession are calling him again.

“Cautious optimism: those are the words I hear over and over,” he said. “But it’s so much better than it has been.”

Despite the forecast, we don’t think all of that optimism is misplaced.

After all, the Wichita-area economy grew 2.2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms in 2014, putting the city in the top third of U.S. metro areas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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