States and cities proffering taxpayers' money to lure or retain manufacturing businesses is a controversial tactic that can smack of featherbedding and throwing good dollars after bad.

But the $40 million from Wichita and Kansas to persuade Hawker Beechcraft - resident of the mid-west aerometropolis for almost 80 years - not to relocate to Louisiana looks like money well spent.

The general aviation icon, battling one of the worst downturns in its history, cannot be blamed for pitching its hometown against Baton Rouge. In such a business climate as this, sentimentality does not come into it.

With Wichita ravaged by the slump in demand for the aircraft it builds - Hawker Beechcraft's neighbour Cessna has cut around half its workforce in two years - the city cannot afford to lose more jobs. Not only that but such a high-profile departure would precipitate a spiral of decline, devastating the supply chain and the academic sector and draining what confidence remains in Wichita's aerospace community. Even its local rivals would mourn.

Forty million dollars will not turn Hawker Beechcraft's fortunes around. Work starts now for managers at the ailing airframer to reinvigorate the company's product line up and balance sheet. Part of that will involve persuading unions to accept some harsh economic realities if they want their employer to survive.

Source: Flight International