WICHITA — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told Wichita aviation workers at a rally Monday that their efforts are "essential to keeping America on a trajectory to economic recovery."
"You are the epicenter for creating the kind of jobs and the kind of airplanes that the world wants," LaHood told a crowd of more than 2,000 people inside a Cessna Aircraft hangar.
The rally was organized by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association to promote general aviation, which it says employs 1.2 million people nationally.
In Kansas, general aviation contributes more than $7 billion a year to the state economy, officials said.
Cessna CEO Jack Pelton called LaHood's visit a "huge win for general aviation in Wichita."
"He will go back to Washington as our advocate and make sure that the administration understands the importance of our industry," Pelton said.
Workers from Cessna, Bombardier Learjet and Hawker Beechcraft, along with suppliers and union and trade group officials were in attendance. So were government officials, including Gov. Sam Brownback, Sen. Jerry Moran and Rep. Mike Pompeo.
LaHood said he recognizes the importance of the general aviation industry and the jobs it supports nationwide. He also told the crowd that he will encourage President Obama to visit Wichita next year.
The general aviation industry is crucial to meeting Obama's goal of doubling the nation's exports in the next five years, LaHood said.
"I will do everything I can when I get back to Washington to persuade President Obama to come out and thank you for all that you're doing to make America continue to be the great country it is... ," LaHood said.
The work aviation workers do in Wichita helps the future of the country, he said.
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