September 13, 2016 at The Scottish Rite
September’s Engage ICT: Democracy On Tap panel, held at the Scottish Rite Center in downtown Wichita, looked far beyond the borders of Kansas and even the U.S. to examine how foreign and domestic policy could impact November’s elections.
“Wichita is not an island,” said Russel Arben Fox, a professor of political science at Friends University. “It’s connected to its surrounding region, connected to its country.”
He said Wichita is a “player” in the national and global system. “Many people don’t believe that,” he said. “They don’t believe Wichita is a serious city.”
But population growth throughout Kansas is almost non-existent—something he said will make us have to rethink what we consider markers of economic growth.
Karyn Page, president and CEO of Kansas Global Trade Services, said Wichita is suffering an identity crisis. “We don’t know how good we really are,” she said.
She provided “stunning” stats to prove Wichita’s strengths: Were in the top 3 in the nation for innovative, high-tech jobs per capita; in the top 10 for manufacturing jobs, and in top 10 for export intensity, or dependency on global customers.
So what international cities like Paris, Beijing and Mexico City say can affect us here.
“We are interconnected,” she said. “We must understand the global economy. We must craft our global strategy.”
Wichita State University political science professor Michael Hall noted that when we think of foreign policy, we often think trade policy.
Speaking about the Trans Pacific Partnership, a controversial trade deal now before the U.S. Congress, Hall said Wichita needs to wonder what our place is in terms of global trade. We and the whole of the U.S. have been “on the winning side of the equation” already in terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Page noted that China is the third-largest export market for Kansas, after Canada and Mexico. Wichita’s top export is aircrafts and parts, agriculture, processed food, chemicals and machinery; 85 percent of Wichita’s exports are manufactures.
“Wichita’s role in the Kansas economy is significant,” she said.
And as the economy becomes increasingly more global, she said we have an opportunity to make influence positive change about immigration and free trade “through our educated votes.”