In Germany, Wichita remains an unknown quantity

Tuesday, September 21, 2010, 5:05pm CDT | Modified: Wednesday, September 22, 2010, 5:37pm

After a full day of courting European manufacturers in the wind industry, a local delegation of economic development officials discovered exactly how the Wichita area is viewed abroad.

The fact is, it’s not.

“What we learned today, we need to be better known outside of the United States,” says Marlin Penner, president of NAI John T. Arnold Associates Inc., who is a member of the local group at the Husum WindEnergy 2010 trade show in Germany. “We have a great deal to offer that is very highly respected, but the world just isn’t aware of many of the things we have.”

Penner is providing daily updates to the WBJ about the delegation’s trip.

He says that was the goal for the delegation today as its members held meetings with 15 to 20 companies and organizations representing the wind energy market in Europe. Penner says Mayor Carl Brewer, another member of the delegation, described the meetings as “speed dating.”

Penner says some of the firms the delegation met with said the wind energy market in Europe had matured. The next frontier is the United States.

“It’s not a matter of if they’re coming, it’s when,” Penner says.

But again, not many of them are aware of Wichita. Penner says the delegation had to educate them about the types of manufacturing, based in the aircraft industry, that occurs here. And he says they also knew little about the recently completed National Center for Aviation Training and WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research.

Penner did say some of the firms were well aware that companies like Siemens and Tindall Corp. had targeted southcentral Kansas for facilities.

From the sound of it, the Wichita delegation has had time for little else in Germany. It arrived there yesterday. The Husum conference runs through the end of the week.

But Penner did say he ate some schnitzel on Monday, and “lots of pastries.” So at least his diet is balanced.