Kansas Guide 2023 | SiteSelection Magazine

Page 1

8 Interview with the Governor

Fresh off winning the state’s first Site Selection Governor’s Cup award, Gov. Laura Kelly is ready for more.

Business Climate Overview

Since 2019, Kansas has won 817 economic development projects representing more than $15 billion in capital investment.

Interview with the Secretary of Commerce

A focus on innovation is elevating Kansas to new economic heights in a variety of fields.

Investment Profile: City of Russell

Statistical Profile

Kansas’ performance by the numbers.

Kansas is a national leader in wind energy, renewable portfolio and carbon reduction.

EV Batteries

Panasonic’s EV battery plant in De Soto will bring 8,000 jobs to the state and 16,000-plus construction jobs.

Agriculture & AG Tech

Farming isn’t what it used to be. The knowledge workers of tomorrow are already toiling in the crop fields of Kansas.

JTM Foods, Hilmar Cheese and Amber Wave are just a few of the new plants sprouting up around Kansas.


Scorpion Biologics invests $650 million in Manhattan while Fagron Sterile Services invests $31.2 million in Wichita.

Animal Health

The Animal Health Corridor, anchored in Kansas, has the largest concentration of animal health companies in the world.

How Novacoast is going to attract a wider pool of cybersecurity companies to the Sunflower State.

The aerospace sector accounts for 20% of the state’s total exports, with $2.3 billion in exported products annually.

Energy and Utilities
Food Processing
2023 Economic Development
4 KANSAS: THE STATE OF UNEXPECTED 50 Broadband The Kansas Office of Broadband Development is bringing high-speed connectivity to rural and remote parts of the state. 52 Logistics & Distribution From Lineage Logistics to Medline, companies around Kansas are investing millions to close the last-mile gap. 58 Reshoring Changing supply chain needs globally are driving more companies to retrench and come closer to home. In Kansas, there’s no place like home. 62
Take it from a site consultant who wrote the book on corporate site selection: Kansas’ workforce is second to none. 66 Workforce Services for Employers Federal Bonding Program, Incumbent Worker Program, Kansas Industrial Training, On-the-Job Training, Registered Apprenticeship and Workforce AID. 69 Headquarters Why one animal health company moved its HQ from the Pacific Northwest to the KC suburbs. 70 Higher Education & Community Colleges A college education is valued highly by Kansas workers. 75 Incubator Accelerator Good ideas quickly become commercial successes in Kansas. 78 Tourism Every new business starts with a tourist trip to Kansas. 82 Small Town Strength Kansas has 100-plus small towns and many of them are pillars of economic strength. 84 Art Havens & Creative Communities Bring out your creative side with a trip to Kansas. 86 Community Development Programs Community investment programs, downtown development, infrastructure development and destination development ring true in Kansas. 89 Quality of Life Ease of commute, low traffic and lack of congestion are just a few of the things making people smile in the Sunflower State. 92 Photo Gallery Kansas in all of its pictorial splendor. Inside Back Cover Index to Advertisers
Talent & Workforce Profile


Read the digital edition on your tablet and phone. Click on links within articles for even more information.


Share the magazine on social media with your friends and community.


Feature the magazine on your blog, website or newsletters with a link or one of our easy-to-use tools.


Publisher/Director LAURA LYNE

Executive Vice President RONALD J. STARNER

VP of Publications & Editor in Chief MARK AREND

Managing Editor ADAM BRUNS


Associate Editor ALEXIS ELMORE


Production Coordinator/Designer BOB GRAVLEE


Data Services Manager KAREN MEDERNACH

Senior Research Associate BRIAN ESPINOZA

Research Associate McKENZIE WRIGHT


Vice President of Sales CHARLES FITZGIBBON

Regional Director — Northeast U.S. MIKE GLENNON

Regional Director — Midwest U.S. CATHY McFARLAND

Regional Director — Southeast U.S. MICHELE RABALAIS

Regional Director — Western U.S. PAUL NEWMAN

Regional Director — U.S. MARGARET ROSE

Europe BRENDAN DOHERTY +44 7999 786752

Japan HIROKO MINATO, +81 50 8882 3456

Korea CHUL LEE, +82 2 466 5595

Sales Development Representative MARTA RUSSELL




DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY TEAM Director of Programming & Analytics DANIEL BOYER


The publishers believe that the information contained in this publication is accurate. However, the information is not warranted, and neither Conway Data, Inc., nor the Kansas Department of Commerce, assumes any liability or responsibility for actual, consequential or incidental damages resulting from inaccurate or erroneous information.

PHONE: (770) 446-6996 • FAX: (770) 263-8825 • TOLL FREE: (800) 554-5686 email: editor@conway.com web: siteselection.com/cc/kansas

The Kansas Economic Development Guide is published by Conway Data, Inc. 6625 The Corners Parkway, Suite 200, Peachtree Corners, GA 30092 USA.

PRINTED IN USA. ©2023 Conway Data, Inc.

Cover design by Richard Nenoff

Forget the Flyover Talk, Kansas Has Moved to the Top

Gov. Kelly outlines the steps she took to propel the state to the No. 1 ranking in economic development.

Fresh off winning re-election and the first Site Selection Governor’s Cup award in state history, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly recently took time to reflect on these and other milestone accomplishments. Based upon her comments, it’s clear that economic development will continue to be one of the state’s top priorities over the next four years.

In the following interview, Gov. Kelly discusses the historic Panasonic battery plant win and outlines her approach to business recruitment.

Now that the election is over, what are your top three economic development priorities for Kansas in 2023?

Gov. Laura Kelly:

First, building on an unparalleled business environment. In my first term, we saw an unprecedented and historic economic surge. We topped $15 billion in new business investment with more than 53,000 jobs created and retained. We’re not slowing down and look forward to many more business announcements throughout our state. To get there, we’ll work diligently to continue investing in strategies that make Kansas the best place in the nation to do business. We’ll continue rebuilding our economy by adding more affordable housing and accessible childcare; strengthening our roads and bridges; and pursuing more strategies to ensure the outstanding quality of life we need to keep Kansans here, and lure those who left back to our great state.

Second, workforce development. To reinforce Kansas’ reputation as the most pro-business state, we’ll keep investing in the folks who power our economy: our talent. Our common-sense investments in K-12 and higher education are supporting a talent pipeline and workforce excellence for generations to come. We will continue to expand apprenticeship programs and make critical investments in childcare, early childhood education and housing to ease the burden on Kansas families and strengthen our workforce.

Third, expanded broadband access. While we made significant gains in my first term — we’ve already helped provide high-speed internet to 58,000 households and businesses in Kansas — we won’t stop until every home, business, school and hospital that wants highspeed internet has access. It is imperative that all Kansans have the opportunity to compete in today’s digital economy.

The Panasonic battery plant project was a big win for Kansas earlier this year. Do you plan to continue to push for incentives packages like the one Kansas awarded Panasonic to land this deal?

Gov. Kelly: The $4 billion Panasonic EV battery-production plant was a major success — the largest economic development project in our state’s history — and we anticipate more big announcements ahead thanks to our aggressive approach to economic development. Our Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) Act, the result of thoughtful bipartisan legislation, addresses unique needs of companies planning megaprojects. While this important tool positioned Kansas to land the Panasonic plant, a once-in-a-generation opportunity that will transform our economy statewide, it’s also made Kansas an economic powerhouse able to compete on a national and global scale. So yes, we will continue to push for these major success stories that will result in thousands of new jobs, billions more business dollars injected into the economy and more opportunities for Kansas families throughout our state.

As Governor, how involved do you plan to get personally in recruiting companies to relocate to Kansas next year?

Gov. Kelly: In Kansas, we’re in the people business, and our pro-business perspective puts people first. Economic development in my administration is about people and encouraging them to stay or come to Kansas.

From Day 1 of my administration, I made economic development a high priority by calling for the rebuilding of our state’s Department of Commerce. Knowing economic development’s importance in strengthening families, communities and the entire state economy, I have been directly involved in every major economic development win by our team. Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland likes to call me his “closer” on project negotiations for a reason.

“ Forget what you heard about Kansas being a ‘flyover state.’ We aren’t just moving forward, we’ve moved to the top, with Kansas recently honored (by Site Selection magazine) as the best state in the nation for per-capita economic development investment.”

I will continue to roll up my sleeves to help us bring home deals that attract and retain companies and jobs throughout our state.

What is your state’s best-kept secret?

Gov. Kelly: Kansas itself is the best-kept secret. But the world is taking notice of our businessfriendly climate, robust talent pool, support of technology innovation, strong transportation infrastructure, advantageous location and available land. Just look at some of what has been happening this year:

• Panasonic Energy broke ground on its $4 billion EV battery manufacturing plant in De Soto, which will employ 4,000, support an additional 4,000, and provide 16,500 jobs during the construction phase;

• Scorpion Biological Services is building a $650 million, 500,000 sq.-ft. biomanufacturing facility in Manhattan;

• Schwan’s is investing $600 million to

Kansas Capitol Photo courtesy of Choose Topeka

Gov. Laura Kelly congratulates Panasonic Energy leaders at the company’s November 2022 groundbreaking in De Soto.

Photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Commerce

expand its frozen pizza operation in Salina to have more than 1 million sq. ft. dedicated to manufacturing and distribution;

• Hilmar Cheese Company is building a $600 million production facility in Dodge City that will utilize a local food supply chain;

• URBN opened a $400+ million, 1.5-millionsq.-ft. omni-channel fulfillment center in Kansas City to move brands such as Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie to market;

• Amber Wave cut the ribbon on what will be the largest wheat protein producer in North America with its $250 million plant in Phillipsburg; and

• Great Plains Manufacturing in Salina open a $178 million plant to produce Kubota compact track loaders.

The list goes on and on. Kansas has landed 275 economic development successes in 2022 that represent almost $7.5 billion capital expenditure and more than 13,500 new or retained jobs for Kansans.

Businesses across the state and around the world know we are here to empower them with a variety of tools, programs and support that gives them the best opportunity to prosper. The same goes for individuals and communities. Our holistic approach to economic development encompasses categories such as workforce and infrastructure development, pro-business policy adoption, capital-raising assistance, housing and community development programs, higher education partnerships, and targeted incentives that reward private investment and job creation.

So, forget what you heard about Kansas being a “flyover state.” We aren’t just moving forward, we’ve moved to the top, with Kansas

recently honored as the best state in the nation for per-capita economic development investment.

We are making Kansas the best place in the nation to do business as well as the best place to live and raise a family. We work to provide solutions that don’t just meet the needs of companies, but the needs of their employees as well.

Ultimately, when your tenure as Governor comes to an end one day, what would you like your legacy to be?

Gov. Kelly: My legacy will be of my tireless work and dedication to putting families first, so our state can grow for generations to come. I ran for this office on an education platform — and have delivered on that promise by fully funding our public schools for four years in a row. Our education institutions all have a seat at the table, whether they be a four-year university, a two-year community college, an accredited technical school or our K-12 system. We need graduates from all in order to support the growth we are experiencing across the state.

Thoughtful and successful economic development is absolutely critical when it comes to growth of communities and opportunities statewide. When I first ran for governor, I promised Kansans that economic development would no longer take a back seat, and we have worked tirelessly to make Kansas a pro-business, pro-family state people want to call home. Moving forward, we will build on our momentum to ensure that the economy works for every Kansan by improving childcare, housing, healthcare and the qualityof-life assets needed to support and grow the Kansas workforce and economy.

In short, I would be proud to be remembered as both the Education and Economic Development Governor.

Why should any company executive in another state consider a Kansas location for their business?

Gov. Kelly: Simply put, Kansas is the best place in the country for businesses, workers and families to prosper. We are the state of unexpected.

In Kansas, we listen to the needs of companies and respond quickly to meet those needs. Our recent historic, record-setting

economic development success is evidence of that. Kanas is now in the spotlight due to our natural strengths — strong schools, skilled workers, pro-business environment, easily accessed transportation routes and appealing quality of life. Here in Kansas, our steadfast approach to economic growth has produced unprecedented, record-breaking private investment and job growth because we have placed renewed emphasis on public schools, job training and infrastructure. And, we have taken extraordinary steps to become more innovative with creative, strategic commitment to investments that “future proof” our economy. Company executives will be impressed by our modern approach to incentives that have made Kansas a strong supporter of the growth and expansion of businesses of all sizes. Our unprecedented surge in economic development successes for both new and existing businesses is proof.

Others have noticed. This past year Kansas received the Governor’s Cup from Site Selection Magazine for the most economic development investment per capita in the

country, the first time Kansas received this prestigious national economic development award. Also in 2021, Kansas was one of just eight states to receive the prestigious Gold Shovel Award from Area Development, which was our second consecutive Gold Shovel. Credit goes to our Commerce Department along with the many professionals in Kansas who work every day to attract new investment and retain and grow existing businesses.

Source: Kansas Department of Commerce

Kansas landed 275 economic development projects in 2022 that represent almost $7.5 billion in capital expenditure and more than 13,500 new or retained jobs for Kansans.

Top Awards Recognize Kansas’ Winning Business Climate

Those charged with marketing their states based on their business climates will usually cite job growth statistics, capital investment projects and other measures. Kansas has the hardware in its trophy case to prove its business case.

In March 2022, Governor Laura Kelly was presented with Site Selection’s prestigious Governor’s Cup for the most qualifying new projects and expansions in the country per capita in 2021.

Kansas’ 139 projects launched the Sunflower State to first place from 10th place the previous year. In an interview with Site Selection, Gov. Kelly explained how Kansas did it: “We developed the first real economic development strategic plan that Kansas has seen in 30 years, called the Framework for Growth. We tried to figure out what Kansas has, what we need and what we can do to grow. It helps focus us on the kinds of things that build on our strengths. We’re focused on logistics and distribution, food processing and advanced manufacturing.

“We have a bioscience corridor we are investing in,” she added. “Kansas is also seeing success with wind energy. We figured out what our assets were and how to build on them, rather than competing for things that were never going to come here. We’re

not Silicon Valley or New York City. Focusing on our strengths has worked, and we’re being recognized for it.”

Site Selection also recognized Kansas in May as having the strongest state-level economic development organization in the seven-state West North Central region, as was the case the previous year.

Then in June, Kansas won Area Development magazine’s 2022 Gold Shovel Award, marking the second year in a row the state received this national recognition for excellence in economic development. The governor outlined in a statement some of the factors behind its second consecutive win: “Our track record of fully funding schools, investing in infrastructure and expanding broadband access has resulted in more businesses choosing to call Kansas home.”

“ My administration has managed our budget wisely in order to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and axe taxes — all while making historic investments in our schools, infrastructure and law enforcement.”
Wichita Getty Images
— Governor Laura Kelly

The Gold Shovel Award annual award is given to states that attract high-value investment projects that create a significant number of new jobs in their communities. At the time, the governor’s office noted that since the start of Governor Kelly’s administration, Kansas has received nearly $8.8 billion in new business investments, created and retained nearly 43,000 jobs and welcomed 645 new economic development projects.

“Under Governor Kelly’s leadership, the Kansas economy has transformed into one of the most dominant states for economic development,” noted Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland. “Our aggressive approach to bringing new, quality jobs and investment to the state has led to back-toback years of record-breaking success. As a result, the world is taking notice.”

In July, CNBC released its ranking of America’s Top States for Business in 2022. It’s based on 88 metrics in 10 categories of competitiveness. Kansas ranked sixth nationally in two of those

categories — Infrastructure and Cost of Doing Business.

“In recent years Kansas has been racking up the awards in economic development,” notes Vicki Horton, managing partner of Evergreen Location Strategies, LLC. “As a national site selector, I have worked with the state for many years, and I attribute their recent success to a focused approach to economic development they have had for a long time. They focus on going to the companies and educating them about what success they could experience by moving or expanding in Kansas vs. waiting for the companies to come to them.

“The state understands what is important to businesses and has been assertive in making changes necessary to create a solid place for businesses to thrive,” Horton observes. “The state is aided by some very strong local and regional partners. A state can only excel by having strong locations within which a company can locate.”


A key part of any state’s business climate is the state of its fiscal health. Businesses seek locations where financial soundness and predictability are in place. In November, Gov. Kelly noted that actions taken by her administration in Fiscal Year 2022, including paying down debts and paying cash for projects, have saved Kansans more than $754 million in interest payments.

“By prioritizing fiscal responsibility, we have put Kansas back on track and ready for the road ahead,” she said in a statement. “My administration has managed our budget wisely in order to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and axe taxes — all while making historic investments in our schools, infrastructure and law enforcement.”

In Fiscal Year 2022, the Kelly Administration used the budget surplus to retire debt early and

pay for projects with cash rather than through issuing bonds. The Administration says it paid down $1.6 billion in debt, saving $632 million in interest payments, and will pay cash for $203 million of new capital projects, saving Kansans more than $100 million in interest that would have otherwise accumulated through bonds. These savings also include saving Kansans $22.2 million in interest by paying off the nearly $100 million of a $200 million transportation bond that was issued in 2012.

“Utilizing our surplus to pay down this level of debt in one year — while simultaneously building our reserves to record levels — is a transformative event,” noted State Budget Director Adam Proffitt. “This will insulate our budget from potential future economic volatilities, which will provide fiscal stability, allowing us to continue to fund critical services for all Kansans for years to come.”

Kansas State Capitol located in Topeka. Photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Commerce

How Kansas Plans To Accelerate Economic Growth

‘This is no time to become complacent,’ says Commerce Secretary David Toland. by RON STARNER

Kansas Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland has not just had a front row seat to Kansas’ record-setting economic run over the past four years. He has presided over it and shepherded through a series of historic deals.

None were bigger than the $4 billion Panasonic EV battery plant project in De Soto that was announced last July, but there have been many others. In fact, there were so many in 2021 that Site Selection magazine named Kansas the No. 1 state in America for project wins per capita, earning Kansas the coveted Governor’s Cup award.

In the following interview, Lt. Gov. Toland outlines the state’s approach to economic development and how Kansas plans to compete over the next four years for even more jobs and industry.

What role will the Office of Innovation play in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in Kansas?

Lt. Gov. David Toland: Innovation and its role in our economy is critical to attracting business and people to Kansas, and our new Office of Innovation is fueling new efforts to recruit cutting-edge businesses that make Kansas the innovation hub of the Midwest. The blueprint for the Office of Innovation is our Framework for Growth, Kansas’ first economic development strategic plan in more than 30 years. The Office of Innovation also features the Kansas Innovation and Technology Enterprise (KITE), which helps coordinate resources for companies with advanced, innovative technology to expand and create new revenue and jobs. Our new KITE Proof of Concept program directly invests capital into for-profit startup companies and university faculty-led efforts to help advance technology through support of innovative, highgrowth-minded entrepreneurs. The

Proof of Concept program is designed to fill a need for support where typical funding mechanisms are not available, acting as a bridge between federal funding for basic research and commercial seed funding by “angel” or venture investors. We are determined to help entrepreneurs develop new technologies, and our recent efforts have helped set the stage for innovative thinkers and doers to succeed and create new jobs and wealth that drive the Kansas economy.

investment, historic job creation and retention — and all in the face of a worldwide pandemic and global recession.

Moving forward, we will continue to go all-in to further improve Commerce programs that help our economy, our communities and the people of Kansas. We will continue to invest in quality-of-life initiatives and make our state a more attractive destination, whether it’s through the continued growth of our Main Street downtown development program, the deployment of broadband infrastructure statewide, promoting Kansas as a tourism destination, or driving business growth. Our foot is on the gas, and we aren’t slowing down anytime soon. This approach will continue to guide our work as long as Gov. Laura Kelly and I are in office.

Is Kansas set up to compete with comparable states on all fronts? If so, how?

Do you anticipate making any changes to the Kansas Department of Commerce next year? If so, can you detail them?

Lt. Gov. Toland: Even though we’re riding an unprecedented wave of economic development success in Kansas, this is no time to become complacent. In fact, we remain in a constant state of change — re-imagining, re-inventing and perpetually transforming the Department to stay on top of market trends and best practices. Building an agency is something that, once begun, is never done.

The first four years of the Kelly administration were spent rebuilding and re-energizing our team at the Kansas Department of Commerce. The improvement and success across the board speaks for itself: record capital

Lt. Gov. Toland: Absolutely. Kansas is playing in the big leagues, and we have become a truly competitive force in economic development. Company executives continuously tell us they are impressed by our workforce, K-12 and higher education systems, strong state fiscal picture, infrastructure, ideal location, and state and local leadership. We have bolstered our incentive toolkit to become even more appealing.

The Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) Act passed in 2022 was a difference-maker — especially in a period of challenging and evolving global competition for new businesses and jobs. Without question, APEX gives us yet another edge over other states in addressing the unique needs of companies planning megaprojects. APEX allowed us to land the Panasonic Energy EV battery manufacturing plant and has positioned us to recruit additional opportunities that will continue transforming our economy statewide. We will continue to push for these major success stories that

“Even though we’re riding an unprecedented wave of economic development success in Kansas, this is no time to become complacent.”
— Lt. Gov. David Toland
Photo: Getty Images

will result in thousands of new jobs, billions more business dollars injected into the economy and more opportunities for Kansas families. But we also will continue assisting the smallest mom-and-pop business in exploring new ways of contributing to their local economy. And we will keep investing in our multifaceted approach that improves the quality of life for businesses, individuals and communities alike.

Does Kansas need to make any tweaks to its incentives legislation? Can you offer any specific details?

Lt. Gov. Toland: As markets change, industries are created, and the specific needs of businesses fluctuate, we improve and modernize the incentives offered here in Kansas. We constantly solicit feedback on all the programs we have in place.

Early on in our discussions with Panasonic, we were told traditional incentive programs were useless for attracting such a megaproject. The Governor and I worked with legislative leaders from both parties to craft APEX, which created new incentive tools for business projects that will invest $1 billion or more. To properly maintain our fiduciary responsibilities, this program only pays incentives after investments are made in buildings and equipment and workers are hired. This approach worked perfectly, as the Panasonic plant is under construction already.

Another example was our High Performance Incentive Program (HPIP), which provides tax incentives to employers that pay above-average wages and have a strong commitment to skills development for their workers. In 2021, the legislature removed the 2% state payroll training requirement for companies seeking to qualify for HPIP. Governor Kelly expressed concern that the state was requiring companies to apply for incentives in order to get other incentives. This decoupling also freed up funding

to assist companies who can utilize the training and retraining program more efficiently and effectively. Additionally, companies are now allowed to sell or transfer 50% of their HPIP credit on a one-time basis. This enables businesses without enough liabilities on their tax returns to actually utilize the HPIP incentive. But there’s still work to do, and we will continue listening to the business community and responding to their needs.

put it to good use. We also are focusing on solar and hydrogen energy, creating public-private partnerships, and pursuing ways to advance the entire renewable energy industry.

What did Kansas learn from the pandemic and ensuing shutdowns and recession that the state can apply in the future?

Will Kansas become more aggressive in pursuing additional investments in renewable energy? Can you elaborate?

Lt. Gov. Toland: Renewable energy is a high priority for Kansas as it powers thousands of good jobs and generates billions in capital investment across the state. Because it is a major industry in the state, we are actively pursuing new collaboration and investment that will fuel the state for decades to come. Wind energy production alone accounts for a big chunk of the Kansas economy. Our state ranks No. 2 nationwide with more than 42% of our electricity produced by wind turbines. Total production ranks 4th in the nation with enough electricity produced to power 1.6 million homes, which is more than our total number of households by nearly 50%. And there is significant potential for further investment. There’s no shortage of wind in Kansas, and we’re happy to

Lt. Gov. Toland: We learned very quickly that the pandemic and global recession, which brought unprecedented challenges, also created extraordinary opportunities for the State of Kansas to help companies survive and thrive. In fact, even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Kansas achieved an incredibly strong year for economic development, with the most capital investment in the state since the Kansas Department of Commerce’s inception in 1986. When the pandemic changed business as we knew it, our agency didn’t sit back. We pivoted and responded quickly to the changing times. We upped our game in many ways, from virtual site tours and drone footage when business prospects couldn’t visit our state, to virtual job fairs designed to connect workers and employers. By rebuilding Commerce’s Business Development and International Trade Divisions we were prepared when the pandemic struck. We were able to respond to onshoring needs and supply-chain interruptions and used our strategic location to capitalize on these opportunities. Our record-breaking results since the pandemic are proof of our success. Companies are flocking to Kansas and bringing new investment and new jobs with them. Kansas is at the top of its game, and we aren’t slowing down.

What role do the colleges and universities of Kansas play in business development across your state?

Lt. Gov. Toland: We understand the value proposition educational

institutions bring to economic development discussions, so we get them at the table early. The companies we recruit want to know where the talent they need will come from — and meet the presidents, chancellors and provosts charged with developing those future workers. We work to closely align the strengths of our higher education system with the needs of our businesses. What current programs are offered that can produce the talent and workforce needed? Do our higher-ed institutions need to develop new curriculum to help meet the workforce needs? This is all part of the conversation and strategy we use to recruit new business development to Kansas.

The partnerships are invaluable — and plentiful. When recruiting Panasonic, for example, multiple community colleges, technical training centers and universities were involved in the process from the beginning. Educational and training institution involvement included

engaging with the company early in the process, highlighting existing programs, demonstrating the ability to adapt or customize training, and playing an integral part in the talent training and requirement process. Kansas State University, Johnson County Community College, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Peaslee Technical Center and the University of Kansas all played vital roles in supporting the state’s case.

When recruiting Scorpion Biological Services, both Manhattan Area Technical College and Kanas State University played a vital role. Having a world-class public research university in town was one of the reasons the company said it chose Manhattan for their massive biomanufacturing facility that eventually will create 500 new, high-paying jobs.

Kansas is blessed to have high-quality and attentive education institutions that are fully engaged in the state and in their communities’ economy and workforce.


The Heart Of America

The community of Russell offers the perfect blend of a high quality of life and opportunities for industry.

Companies looking for a new location in the heart of the country should look no further than Russell, Kansas. Technically speaking, the United States’ geographic center is 80 miles north of Russell in Lebanon, Kansas, but you get the point. Russell is as centrally positioned as cities come. Located at the junction of Interstate 70 and Highway 281 — approximately 240 miles west of Kansas City and 360 miles east

cities of Gorham, Bunker Hill, Lucas, Luray Paradise, Dorrance and Waldo.

Russell offers a variety of benefits for businesses. With excellent multimodal transport options, including Highways 40, 281 and Interstate 70, Union Pacific Railroad’s rail service, and a thriving modern, municipal airport. Additionally, the city owns both the electric and water utilities and offers various economic development incentives to encourage new businesses to locate in the region.

“Russell’s geographic location is a huge advantage for companies doing interstate business,” said Russell City Manager Jon Quinday. “Russell is a public power community; the community owns the electric utility providing safe, reliable, not-for-profit electricity at a reasonable price, with decisions made locally. The community boasts better technology infrastructure than many urban centers in the state, creating an abundance of opportunities for businesses located in Russell.”


of Denver — Russell’s strategic position in Kansas offers easy access to markets across North America.

The seat of government for Russell County, Russell is an economic hub for Central Kansas. Russell County also contains the

For Assistant City Manager Kayla Schneider, the decision to move back to her hometown coincided with her decision to start a family. After her husband’s military career, the couple wanted to provide their children with a safe place to plant their roots.

“We are a community that cares for each other,” Schneider said. “This is a specific advantage for raising a family. Parents look

out for each others’ children, and we have the opportunity to watch the same small group of children grow up together. Small class sizes make this possible. Graduating classes are in the 60-80 range, depending on the year. There is the adage that ‘it takes a village,’ Russell provides that village. I couldn’t imagine raising my family anywhere else.”

Though the city itself is only home to 4,463 (with approximately 6,933 in Russell County), many people who call it home would not want to live anywhere else. The smalltown environment offers its unique lifestyle — with high-quality education, health care, thriving art community, and plenty of outdoor recreational attractions to explore including 160 acres of parks with recently updated park equipment, a nine-hole bluegrass fairway golf course, Memorial Park Complex and Duke Johnson Swimming Pool.

One of the state’s most beautiful attractions can be found at Wilson State Park. Wilson Lake’s rugged shoreline with scenic cliffs provides a stunning backdrop for watersports like boating, jet skiing and fishing. The surrounding Wilson Wildlife Area is a prime location to find deer, pheasant, waterfowl, songbirds and many other wild animals. The popular Switchgrass Bike Trail takes mountain bikers through 25.5 miles of some of nature’s finest views, while hiking trails can be found throughout the area.


Nearly a century ago, an oil boom paved the way for economic growth at a critical junction in the state. Today, the county is one of the state’s top five oil producers and is home to several wheat gluten and ethanol manufacturing facilities. The region’s natural resources, logistics infrastructure and stable workforce have created a dynamic cluster of industries to grow and flourish, with plenty of room to expand.

One such company, PureField Ingredients, operates two state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Russell, where it produces food ingredients and co-products. Already the nation’s largest domestic supplier of wheat protein, the company announced the completion of a more than $30 million facility expansion which expanded its production of wheat protein by 50% in early 2022. PureField is already in the midst of its next phase of

expansion, with plans to double production yet again.

PureField Ingredients provides a dependable distribution channel that is not subject to international supply chain disruptions. The company sources locally grown grains that can be traced directly back to individual Kansas farms.

Longtime major employer, John O. Farmer, Inc. first opened its oil and gas production company in Russell in 1946. Today, it is one of the state’s top producers, generating approximately 30,000 barrels of oil each month with over 200 leases and 350 wells. Still family-owned and operated, the company’s president, John O. Farmer, IV, noted several benefits related to its location — outside of its plentiful oil reserves.

“People from this area have a great work ethic and believe in a good honest day of work,” Farmer said. “I feel our employees go to work to ‘complete the job for the day,’ regardless of how many hours it may take, instead of ‘getting your eight hours in.’ There seems to be a lot of loyalty and pride in being from Western Kansas. I believe there is also an advantage in living in rural America, in that we can ‘tune out’ all the noise seen in the big cities. Russell seems to have an advantage in that there are not constant distractions, and we can become better focused as a company without these distractions.”

The City of Russell’s vision statement captures the essence of the community, “As a rural city, it is our vision to serve as the County’s regional center. We will continue to be a community that is dedicated to family, friends and neighbors, where generations care for each other. We are One Russell, building a self-reliant future. This is home.”

This Investment Profile was created under the auspices of the City of Russell. For more information, please contact Jon Quinday at 785-483-6311 or quinday@russellcity.org.

The community of Russell offers the perfect blend of a high quality of life and opportunities for industry.
Photo by Dustin Madden courtesy of the City of Russell Photo by Ian Shaw courtesy of the City of Russell











The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Topeka Chemicals & Plastics Expansion 50

TVH Parts Co. Olathe Machinery, Equip. & Const. Expansion 44 10

JTM Foods Wichita Food & Beverage New 40 150

Johnson Controls Wichita Electronics Expansion 38

Koch Fertilizer Dodge City Chemicals & Plastics Expansion 30

PROJECTS BY INVESTMENT Type Projects Manufacturing 47 Office 23 Distribution Warehouse 21 Headquarters 5 Call Center 1 PROJECTS BY TYPE PROJECTS BY SECTOR Sector Projects Machinery, Equip. & Const. 14 Food & Beverage 13 Life Sciences 8 Transport & Logistics 7 Business & Financial Services 6 Metals 6 Consumer Products 6 IT & Comm. 6 Chemicals & Plastics 6 Other 17 48 % MFG. 22 % MACH. 22 % FOOD 26 % OFFICE
City Sector Category Invest. (M$) Jobs
Corp. / Panasonic Energy Co. De Soto Electronics New 4,000 4,000
Biological Services Manhattan Life Sciences New 650 500
Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Olathe Food & Beverage New 326
Waves Harvesting Phillipsburg Food & Beverage Expansion 250 60
Industries Park City Paper, Printing & Packaging New 200 58
Inc. Topeka Food & Beverage Expansion 175 100
Plains Manufacturing Salina Manufacturing Expansion 124
Foods Olathe Food & Beverage New 110 127
Data Centers Shawnee Data Storage New 58
Catalyst Technologies Kansas City Chemicals & Plastics Expansion 53
Kansas recorded 139 corporate facility investment projects in 2021, good for first place in the West North Central Region of the country and first place per capita in the U.S. Source: Site Selection Magazine, March 2022 Based on growth over the last decade, it is projected that the population of Kansas will surpass 3 million by 2025.
World Population Review Source: Kansas Department of Commerce Source: Conway Data Analytics $57,422 Median Household Income $145,400 Median Housing Cost 19 Miles Average Travel to Work 88.4% Households with Access to Computers 82,282 Square Miles 2.9M Population 2.0% Annual Growth Rate MOST POPULOUS CITIES (2021) Wichita 395,699 MSA 646,542 Overland Park 197,106 Kansas City, KS 154,545 Olathe 143,014 Topeka 125,963 MSA 231,969 139 corporate facility investment projects STATISTICAL PROFILE

How Renewables POWER A Economy

A State Economy

800 power substations. It takes more than 5,000 employees to deliver over 13,000 megawatts of energy generated by Evergy to the firm’s customers in Kansas and Missouri.

At Kansas Gas Service, a division of ONE Gas, a full-service economic development team stands ready to assist industrial clients looking to expand in the state. “Our vision is to be a premier natural gas distribution company, creating exceptional value for our customers and the communities we service,” the company states on its economic development website. “We’re dedicated to supporting regional growth and delivering natural gas for a better tomorrow. We want to partner with you on innovative and forward-thinking solutions to support your development initiatives and growth strategy.”

over the past decade. The firm now ranks as one of the top renewable energy providers in the Central U.S. region. Evergy has invested nearly $1.8 billion into renewable energy generation and now produces 50% of its customers’ power through renewables.


Site selectors will like what they find in Kansas too. Evergy provides a suite of site selection services to its customers. This includes location analysis through search tools like LOIS — LocationOne Information System. Using LOIS, customers can identify buildings and sites that meet their search criteria for development or expansion.

On top of that, Evergy stands ready to connect qualifying businesses with state

Kansas ranks below the national average with a 14.77 cents-perkilowatt-hour price of electricity.


The next time you drive through Kansas, take a moment and reflect on the importance of those windswept prairies that cover the landscape of this Central U.S. state. In addition to producing the grains that feed much of the world, they harness enough wind energy to provide electric power to every single home in the state for two years.

of ethanol and biodiesel production; and in recent years the state has become a welcoming destination for solar farm investments.

Kansas currently supplies 7% of all wind energy generated in the U.S. and ranks behind only Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa in that regard.

Wind power provides 41% of all electricity generated in Kansas — the second-largest share for any state.

Kansas currently ranks among the top four states for operating wind farms, with more than 6,100 megawatts of windmills in operation. That represents a combined capital investment of $11.4 billion. Kansas is also a major supplier

This is a major reason why Kansas ranks below the national average with a 14.77 cents-per-kilowatt-hour price of electricity. Potential industrial power customers will also be pleased to know that in terms of North American energy sector competitiveness, Kansas is the fourth most attractive state in the U.S. for oil and gas investment, according to the Fraser Institute.

Two of the largest power companies in Kansas are Evergy and ONE Gas. Evergy is an investor-owned utility that serves more than 1.6 million power customers in Kansas and Missouri. Its service territory stretches 316 miles west to east and 325 miles north to south. Altogether, Evergy has 62,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines and over

Sustainability is a primary goal at ONE Gas. According to the firm’s 2021 annual report highlights, the company plans to achieve 55% reduction in emissions due to leaks from distribution pipelines by 2035, measured from a 2005 baseline. The company recently replaced 430 miles of distribution mains, service lines and transmission lines.

The company also reduced 35,926 metric tons of carbon dioxide through its energy efficiency programs. That is the equivalent of removing 7,741 passenger vehicles from the road. These and other efficiency-driving measures helped propel ONE Gas to a 90.6% overall customer satisfaction score.

On the industrial electricity side, Evergy works closely with economic development groups around the state to close deals and bring increased corporate facility investment to Kansas.

Its four target industry sectors are aerospace, automotive, data centers and manufacturing. Evergy also constantly invests in its own diverse energy portfolio.

For example, Evergy has increased generation of renewables by more than 1,250%

and local incentives. This includes a special Economic Development Rider Incentive. This enables eligible businesses to receive a discounted electric rate on their energy bill for five years.

Evergy also maintains a Certified Sites program that includes fully shovel-ready pads at 16 industrial parks around the state.


Kansas is also home to Kansas Electric Power Cooperative Inc. (KEPCo). Based in Topeka, KEPCo is a non-for-profit generation and transmission cooperative that supplies reliable power for its 16 distribution cooperative members at a market-competitive cost. KEPCo provides a wide range of services including rural economic development assistance, energy efficiency rebates, load and power cost forecasting, and various system enhancement projects.

KEPCo is governed by a board of 16 trustees and collectively serves more than 75,000 consumers in the eastern two-thirds of Kansas. KEPCo is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, a national network of electric coops serving more than 32 million customers in 46 states.

The windswept plains of Kansas harness enough energy to power the future.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Association Photo courtesy of Kansas Dept. of Commerce

Panasonic’s $4 billion, 4,000-job battery plant in De Soto will be “transformational” to the state, said Gov. Laura Kelly (in blue jacket above), who joined officials and Panasonic Energy leaders at the November 2022 groundbreaking.

Panasonic Investment Will Catalyze a Power and Materials Industry Ecosystem

Panasonic’s $4 billion, 4,000-job EV battery plant in De Soto is all anyone in Kansas economic development can talk about these days. But it’s nothing new: The state’s battery heritage goes way back. And now things are coming full circle.

In June 2022 the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) at the University of Kansas was awarded $1.5 million for a two-year project to study the feasibility of recovering minerals critical to advanced and defense manufacturing as well as the clean energy industry from coal deposits, associated rock layers and legacy mining wastes found in Kansas and neighboring states. The grant is one of 13 funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to support the production of rare earth elements and critical minerals used to produce magnets in wind turbines, advanced batteries in electric and conventional vehicles, and other components important to advanced and defense manufacturing as well as clean energy technology.

In addition to coal mining going back to the early 1800s, the latter part of the 19th century “saw thriving zinc and lead mines in far southeastern Kansas,” the KGS explained. “The Tri-State mining district, which includes the southeast tip of Kansas and parts of Oklahoma and Missouri, was once one of the major zinc and lead mining areas in the world.”

The team envisions establishing a technology innovation center, dubbed “CritiMinTic,” to be located in KU’s Innovation Park to serve as a center for teaching industry how to identify and produce from these deposits in an environmentally friendly manner.

Meanwhile, Panasonic and others with cleantech and sustainability on their minds plan to mine a whole new wave of EV and battery innovation.

All in all, the Panasonic EV battery plant will bring 8,000 jobs to the state and 16,000+ construction jobs during construction, while also serving to attract more companies in the EV and battery ecosystem. Some are already in place: EV maker Canoo, which is constructing an assembly plant less than

four hours’ drive south in Pryor, Oklahoma, already has announced Panasonic as its battery cell provider.

In other words, the same region that once produced the raw materials in batteries is looking to power a new, cleaner industrial ecosystem from the same geographic footprint.


Why Kansas for Panasonic? The state’s “skilled manufacturing workforce, reliable infrastructure, and central location in North America makes it an ideal location for this facility,” the company said on the occasion of the site’s groundbreaking in early November 2022. Also a big factor was the bipartisan July 2022 approval by the Kansas Legislature of an Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) state incentive application. The APEX incentive program is available to qualified companies within specific industry sectors that agree to invest at least $1 billion.

Hiring for the 4,000 initial positions is expected to begin in mid-2023. How big could things get? Panasonic Energy’s facility in Sparks, Nevada, already is one of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery factories, surpassing 6 billion EV battery cells shipped. The De Soto plant’s main focus will be the company’s “2170” cylindrical Li-ion batteries. “Mass production is targeted to begin by the end of March 2025,” Panasonic said, “with the initial production capacity of the new facility expected to be 30 GWh.”

“With the increased electrification of the automotive market, expanding battery production in the U.S. is critical to help meet demand,” said Kazuo Tadanobu, president and CEO of Panasonic Energy. “Given our leading technology and depth of experience, we aim to continue driving growth of the lithium-ion battery industry and accelerating towards a netzero emissions future.”

“Kansas has an impressive history of being home to a skilled manufacturing workforce,” said Yasuaki Takamoto, executive vice president of Panasonic Energy and head of its EV Battery Business. “We appreciate Kansas’ dedication to sustainability and its commitment to growth in the clean and renewable energy space.”

Photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Commerce


The transformational Panasonic project has been projected to create 4,000 additional jobs created by suppliers and community businesses, according to a Wichita State University economic impact study. Some of that will come from longtime Panasonic partners. And some may come from companies who already found Kansas to their liking.

Semiconductor device manufacturer Radiation Detection Technologies, which employs 22 professionals, will create 30 new jobs over the next five years with a $4 million investment to construct a new facility and purchase new semiconductor processing equipment at its site in Manhattan, Kansas, home to Kansas State University’s Semiconductor Materials and Radiological Technologies (SMART) Lab where the company was founded in 2011. To meet the increase in demand for new and better semiconductors, the company says it is investing in better production capabilities, more square footage, more employees and additional equipment to manufacture semiconductor devices ranging from radiation detection to electric vehicle semiconductor power chips.

“Radiation Detection Technologies’ investment shows that Kansas businesses are not just keeping up with technological trends — they’re setting them,” Governor Laura Kelly said.

Another firm, Vancouver-based HydroGraph Clean Power, also was founded based on technology developed at Kansas State University. The company, a manufacturer of high-quality nanomaterials and alternative-energy fuels, announced in June 2022 the opening of a manufacturing facility in Manhattan for the production of graphene using its patented Hyperion detonation process, which the company says produces the highest quality graphene at the lowest cost and in the most environmentally friendly manner due to its low energy consumption and absence of emissions.

“This facility is the pinnacle in research and development,” said Dr. Chris Sorensen, vice president R&D and Cortelyou-Rust university distinguished professor of physics and university distinguished teaching scholar at KSU. “Our new space allows the science to flourish and, as a result, will allow graphene to live up to its potential to change the world.” The method was discovered when he and colleagues were using controlled detonations to create an aerosol gel. “All of this started as curiosity-based research,” Sorensen told a university publication in spring 2022. “Land-grant universities were founded on the idea that research and creative ideas

The method of creating graphene at the heart of HydroGraph’s business (left) was patented by Kansas State University (right). Photos courtesy of HydroGraph and KSU

Fields Reimagined

formulated at the state university would yield useful technologies. That is exactly what happened here. Moreover, this type of intellectual property collaboration could be the future for K-State.”

Asked how the company’s products might fit into the state’s emerging EV/battery industry, HydroGraph CEO Stuart Jara tells me, “Our graphene production capabilities fit well regionally, as we currently produce in Manhattan, Kansas, with a capacity in 2023 of approximately 50 metric tons and are designed to scale with customer demand, offering the option to produce adjacent to any production facility.

HydroGraph is working with a

customer involving energy storage but feels graphene can play a much larger role in composites as a whole. HydroGraph sees a large opportunity for graphene to achieve outsized performance improvements in light-weighting vehicles and improving composite vessels for hydrogen storage, for example.”

Manhattan in particular has a large potential for growth, he says. “We are currently hiring across multiple functions and are growing that team rapidly. As the company grows we will likely look to other areas, in particular [those] with abundant acetylene as it is our primary feedstock, for additional production facilities.”

Technology is driving innovations in farming.

As one of the nation’s leading crop producers, Kansas has proved to be a fertile laboratory for what a top official of the Kansas Water Office likes to call progressive farming. A selfdescribed “ag kid who went to engineering school,” Weston McCary, the Water Office’s technology projects coordinator, brings to his job a wealth of experience in both the

agriculture industry and academia.

“People don’t truly realize how agriculture has evolved,” he says. “A lot of folks believe it’s still mom and pop out there with a pitchfork. We have drones that are flying themselves. We’re using satellite imagery to manage our crops and sensors to manage irrigation. We just had a guy from NASA out here talking about all the things we can do

Kansas farms aim for the future.
Stuart Jara, CEO, HydroGraph Clean Power, says his company’s uniquely produced graphene (above) has a role to play in improving composites and in the light-weighting of vehicles. Photos courtesy of HydroGraph

from space. It is standard issue now. It’s how we do ag.”

As director of precision agriculture at Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, McCary instituted programs that preached the use of technology in the name of sustainability, “the ins and outs,” he says, “of how we do center pivot irrigation, subsurface irrigation, soil moisture probes, drones, GPS,

“It’s a lot about education,” he says. “There’s something about a good old farmer that wants to have their hands on everything. But the truth is, if you can have a machine do what you would do on your best day and do it over and over and over, you can see that there’s a place for technology to do those redundant, menial tasks that humans don’t need to be doing.”


Western states that are struggling under sustained drought conditions could look to the example set by Kansas, whose bountiful agriculture industry relies heavily on the Ogallala Aquifer. The nation’s largest such source of underground water, it stretches more than 175,000 square miles and sustains farms throughout western Kansas. According to a recent report by two Kansas State University agricultural economists, the aquifer adds some $3.8 billion to western Kansas land values.

“It’s a large, substantial number, and it provides evidence of just how valuable irrigation is in western Kansas,” said Gabe Simpson, an associate professor in K-State’s Department of Agricultural Economics.

With a goal of reducing stress on overtaxed sources of precious water like the Ogallala, the state created a series of water management districts, known as Local Enhanced Management Areas. With public input and

30 pivots manually, like we did when I was a kid,” he says. “We can start up, shut down, change rates, monitor, everything. Right from our phone. We can read the nitrogen in the plant as the pivots are going over the crop, and we can speed them up or slow them down. It all serves to make our water usage that much more efficient and make farming more profitable.”

McCary is leading the state’s new Water Innovation Systems and Education (WISE) program with partners that include Kansas State University. Ultimately, he envisions a series of strategically placed demonstration projects to showcase the evolving face of agriculture.

K-State offers an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Technology Management, with 95% of recipients receiving job offers before graduation.

“The goal of the ATM program,” says a K-State release, “is to educate technology managers who can combine the critical understanding of agriculture and biological sciences with the problem-solving viewpoint of an engineer.”

guided tractors and all those things that are parts of soil conservation.”

Out in the field, McCrary has tapped into tech while managing a “Water Technology Farm” under a Kansas-wide public-private partnership spearheaded by the state. He also has seen progressive agriculture enter into the mainstream: Witness the embrace, he points out, of heretofore novel methods of promoting soil integrity by the biggest makers of farm equipment. It’s getting the word out to thousands of Kansas farms that perhaps is his biggest challenge.

deference to local concerns, plus the technical expertise and buy-in of industry, academics and the state government, the LEMA districts have served to produce an impressive 25% water savings, McCary says, while at the same time enhancing the profitability of associated farms. The keys to such achievements, he believes, are a growing awareness of the pressing nature of water issues and the increasingly widespread adoption of easily available and usable technology.

“Our pivots out here are all controlled from a cell phone instead of going out and starting

“We’re going to start growing some other products to diversify our financial portfolios, like everybody does when they invest. We have guys that are putting cover crops down and building better soil health while getting all kinds of secondary returns. They’re using less water while they’re getting twice the economics out of their fields. And these are not a bunch of hippies,” McCary says. “These are Kansas farmers.”


Kansas State, which opened in 1863 as the nation’s first operational land-grant university, consistently ranks among the nation’s top 10 schools for agriculture.

Located in Manhattan, K-State’s ag school boasts average annual research expenditures of $88 million. Sixteen undergraduate majors also include Agricultural Economics, Animal Sciences and Industry, Dairy Science, Equine Science and Feed Science and Management. Combined graduate and undergraduate enrollment has grown to 2,600.

In October 2022, the Kansas Farm Bureau pledged $5 million over five years to support the K-State College of Agriculture’s innovation centers for grain, food, animal and agronomy research. It’s the largest such donation in the organization’s history. The investment is to fund new facilities, renovations of current buildings and improvements in technology and equipment.

“This gift,” said Ag School Dean Ernie Minton, “is proof of the strong, longstanding relationship between the university and agriculture industry, which is the lifeblood of Kansas.

The Kansas Farm Bureau presents a record check. Photo courtesy of Kansas State University
“ These
— Weston McCary, Technology Projects Coordinator, Kansas Water Office Kansas Ag Stats 45,700 Farms • Average Farm Size: 784 Acres • Total Cropland: 29,125,505 Acres Ranked #2 • Sorghum for Grain: 64% of U.S. Total • Wheat: 25% of U.S. Total
are not a bunch of hippies.

KANSAS: Where Foodies Find Paradise

Ever wonder why Kansans always seem to be so happy? I did, and a drive through the state a few years ago answered my question. I ventured off the beaten path, took a turn down Main Street of Hays, Kansas, and enjoyed one of the best meals of my life.

It all took place at Gella’s Diner at 117 East 11th Street in downtown Hays. From the jumbo pretzel and pale ale cheese spread to the smothered bierock sandwich (a pastry pocket sandwich stuffed with meat, cabbage and onions), Gella’s delivered the gastric equivalent of a World Series-clinching grand slam.

I could go on at length describing my dinner, or you could just try it for yourself. I’m confident you’d come away convinced that when it comes to food, nobody does it better than Kansas.

If the food processing sector had a Hall of Fame, it would be in Kansas. Think of everything Kansans gave us: the bierock, the Icee, the White Castle slider, the Pizza Hut Pan Pizza and Freddy’s Frozen Custard. And don’t forget the Fort Hays Tiger Chicken Sandwich, which you can buy for $13.95 at Gella’s and consume shortly before enjoying a long nap.

Statistically, Kansas is a food lover’s dream. According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the food processing industry has a direct output of more than $20 billion and creates more than 32,000 jobs statewide. Kansas ranks third in the nation in total number of beef cattle per state and produces nearly 20% of all wheat grown in the country. That’s why they call the Sunflower State America’s Breadbasket.

Kansans’ penchant for producing new food products never wanes. According to a search of the Conway Data Inc. projects database, six new food

The seeds of food processing success are planted in the soil of the Sunflower State.
Cheese Company is building a $600 million processing plant in Dodge City and creating 250 new jobs. Rendering courtesy of Hilmar Cheese Co.

In November 2022, Gov. Laura Kelly (pictured) announced the expansion of Schwan’s pizza plant in Salina, where the firm is investing $600 million.

and beverage manufacturing plants were launched in Kansas in 2022. These include the $250 million plant investment by Amber Wave in Phillipsburg and the $175 million project by Mars Inc. in Topeka.


While Pizza Hut continues to grow from its humble beginnings in a small brick home in Wichita in 1958 to over 18,000 locations in more than 100 countries today, so too does Salina-based pizza maker Schwan’s Company. On November 3, Gov. Laura Kelly announced the expansion of Schwan’s pizza plant in Salina, where the firm is investing $600 million and adding 225 new jobs to increase its production facility by 140,000 sq. ft. and its manufacturing side by 400,000 sq. ft.

Dimitrios Smyrnios, CEO of Schwan’s, said, “In 2020, we had the honor of announcing to

the Salina community a major investment that would enable us to continue to provide delicious pizzas to millions of families for decades to come. I feel a lot of pride and I am also very much humbled by everyone’s execution of this project.”

A couple of months earlier, Gov. Kelly announced that JTM Foods would expand in Wichita. On August 24, she unveiled the company’s plans to invest $40 million to create a new production facility for JJ’s Snack Pies, creating 150 new jobs for Kansans.

“After exploring several options across multiple states and locales, the strong public/ private partnerships here linking government, business, academic and community interests together convinced us that Wichita was the best choice for JTM’s future expansion,” said Monty Pooley, president and CEO of JTM Foods.

Also in August, Gov. Kelly cut the ribbon on North America’s largest wheat protein plant. She joined executives of Amber Wave to christen the new plant in Phillipsburg. The $250 million project creates more than 60 new jobs at the former Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy ethanol plant complex.

“Recognizing the rising demand for high-protein ingredients and innovative feed products, coupled with renewable fuels that reduce our carbon footprint, this investment fits with what we have successfully done many times in Summit’s history,” said Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Summit Agricultural Group, Amber Wave’s parent. “We evaluated several sites in various wheat-growing areas and Prairie Horizon is ideally located. The wheat protein we will produce is a healthy ingredient used widely within baked goods, pet food and growing aquaculture feed markets.”


Hilmar Cheese Company then broke ground September 30 on a new $600 million cheese and

whey protein processing plant in Dodge City, adding 250 new jobs to the local economy.

“The Hilmar project is a game-changer for southwest Kansas in terms of job growth, opportunity and lifestyle benefits for those living in Dodge City and surrounding communities,” Gov. Kelly said.

The state of Kansas offers several incentives to give food processors a boost. One of them is an official state trademark program known as “From the Land of Kansas,” which has 408 member companies and connects them via an online marketplace to offer a compelling brand.

Various tax credits, tax abatements and worker training dollars are also available to qualifying employers in Kansas. The Kansas Department of Commerce stands ready to assist these firms as they grow.

“ The Hilmar project is a game-changer for southwest Kansas in terms of job growth, opportunity and lifestyle benefits for those living in Dodge City and surrounding communities.”
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, September 2022
Photo courtesy of Kansas Dept. of Commerce


Most states have specialized concentrations of employment in at least one of five bioscience subsectors, according to “The U.S. Bioscience Industry Industry: Fostering Innovation and Driving America’s Economy Forward 2022,” from TEConomy Partners LLC and BIO, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. Kansas has specialized concentrations in two of those subsectors — Agricultural Feedstock & Industrial Biosciences and Pharmaceuticals. What’s more, the state is seeing employment growth in those specialties as well as in the other three subsectors: Medical Devices & Equipment; Research, Testing &

Medical Laboratories; and Bioscience-related Distribution. That’s covering the bases.

More than 40 biotech companies do business in The Sunflower State, including Altasciences and Celgene in Overland Park, Corbion and TVAX Biomedical in Lenexa and AlphaBiosystems and Fagron Sterile Services in Wichita. Lawrence, Manhattan and Olathe also are home to multiple biotech companies. Clara Biotech, which specializes in exosome isolation technology for use in diagnostics and treatment of multiple diseases, picked Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas, located just west of the Kansas City metro. There it is part of the KC Collective, a consortium for startups

in multiple disciplines, providing access to venture capital funding, accelerators, education programs, networking and other resources.


Manhattan is home to the Department of Homeland Security’s National Bio and AgroDefense Facility (NBAF), which is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Adjacent to Kansas State University’s Biosecurity Research Institute, the 574,000-sq.-ft., $1.25 billion facility is charged with protecting the nation’s food supply and public health. Core competencies include diagnostics, basic and applied research, vaccine development,

agriculture biological countermeasures and others. NBAF will take over federal Biosafety Level 4 animal disease research currently conducted in Plum Island, New York. This includes relocation of the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit.

Additionally, two new USDA units, the Foreign Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit and the Zoonotic and Emerging Disease Research Unit, will focus on research and countermeasures for highconsequence animal diseases. NBAF also will be home to a Biologics Development Module that will facilitate transitioning of new

The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility near Kansas State University Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture by MARK AREND

Manhattan Prepares for $ 1 Billion in New Investment

2022 was quite a year for Manhattan, Kansas. The Little Apple had over $1 billion in new capital investment announced including the new manufacturing site for Scorpion Biological Services which will manufacture vaccines in its new $650 million biomanufacturing facility.

Scorpion is announcing at about the same time the community is preparing for the grand opening of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). The federal laboratory has been under construction for nearly a decade and will give the United States a laboratory to examine the impact of the most dangerous zoonotic pathogens in livestock.

By the end of 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin conducting research in the $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense

Facility (NBAF), adjacent to the Kansas State University campus. USDA’s NBAF will be the first U.S. facility to offer biosafety level 4 (BSL- 4) laboratories capable of housing cattle, swine, sheep and other large livestock for zoonotic disease research.

“Currently there are only four BSL-4 livestock laboratories in the world capable of doing this type of research on high-consequence foreign animal diseases. NBAF will become number five,” said NBAF Coordinator Ken Burton, DVM. (In case you’re wondering, the other labs are in Australia, England, Germany and Canada.)

Why will NBAF be a game-changer for animal and human health?

NBAF has facilitated a transformation in the Kansas metropolitan area of 125,000. In addition

to the $50 million infrastructure enhancements around the university to accommodate the facility and 400 employees, there have been developments in workforce training and research that has caught the eye of biosecurity businesses from around the world.

Scorpion was the first of these to announce its new location. However, there are others that continue to evaluate an opportunity to locate in northeast Kansas.

“We continue to gain interest from companies around the globe for our expertise in biosecurity and biodefense,” said Jason Smith, president and CEO of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. “These companies have expressed their desire to use the remarkable quantity and quality of assets our region has for supporting that industry, among others. NBAF showed the world we could punch above our weight when it comes to national site selection decisions. Scorpion is expanding on that reputation and we see more great opportunities in our future.”

The new NBAF facility will replace the 65-year-old Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). NBAF will expand on PIADC’s mission and become the nation’s headquarters for internationally recognized experts in emerging and transboundary animal diseases. NBAF scientists will assist other countries in addressing significant animal disease situations and will partner with public health officials to protect animal and public health.

The lab will also contain a new, proof-of-concept facility for veterinary medical countermeasures called the Biologics Development Module (BDM). The BDM will help determine whether discoveries being made at NBAF for the detection and prevention of diseases have the potential to become economically viable products. The BDM will then help translate NBAF research findings for use by outside partners ranging from government agencies to academia to private industry.

Over the next few years, leading scientists will begin relocating to Manhattan, Kansas to work at NBAF. Likewise, biosecurity and animal health companies have started locating near NBAF for future collaborations and partnerships.

However, in addition to the activity in biosecurity, Manhattan has seen other activity including projected economic development projects in chip manufacturing, software development, traditional manufacturing and regional headquarters, among others. Other major investments are being made in speculative ventures around office and R&D. Finally, the community announced a new state of the art museum to feature interactive and classical art exhibits.

In total, there is nearly $2.5 billion of investment either coming online or breaking ground in 2023.

To learn more about opportunities for private industry to locate near NBAF or Kansas State University, visit  greatermanhattan.org. To learn more about NBAF, its capabilities and mission, and job opportunities, visit usda. gov/nbaf.

Manhattan, Kansas

4th largest urban area in Kansas — more than 130,000 people

Home to Kansas State University — more than 21,000 students and 6,000 graduates annually

Near Fort Riley, home of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division — serves 15,000 soldiers, 18,000 family members and 31,000 retirees and veterans. Approximately 1,800 solders transition from active duty at Fort Riley annually

Less than two hours to Kansas City, Wichita, and Lincoln, Nebraska — easy access via interstate and state highways

Multiple daily jet flights from the Manhattan Regional Airport

Jason Smith, Greater Manhattan Economic Partnership  jason@manhattan.org 785-776-8829

Rebecca Robinson, K-State Innovation Partners  spexarth@ksu.edu 785-532-3955

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Scorpion Biological Services Founder and CEO Jeff Wolf
Join Us in

innovations from research to commercially viable countermeasures such as vaccines and antivirals.

Meanwhile, private-sector biotech investment in Kansas was robust in 2022. In October, KCAS Bioanalytical and Biomarker Services opened a $28 million laboratory in Olathe that it says will create 175 new jobs.

KCAS, an Integris BioServices company, is a contract research organization supporting biotech, pharmaceutical and animal health drug development programs. The company says the new laboratory will provide advanced technology and expertise across the complete R&D range of discovery, preclinical and clinical studies.

“We are proud to officially celebrate the grand opening of our new purpose-built facility positioned in the Kansas Bioscience Park campus. The support of state and local leadership has been instrumental in KCAS making Kansas home to our growing organization,” said CEO John Bucksath at the facility opening. “This investment, along with the recent acquisitions of FlowMetric and Active Biomarkers, has positioned KCAS for global expansion and significant gains in capacity that allow us to attract expertise and serve our customers as the CRO of choice for the global pharma and biopharma industries. As one of the area’s largest employers, we continue to look for top talent to help us grow both locally and globally.”


In April, Scorpion Biological Services, a subsidiary of Heat Biologics, Inc., began work on a 500,000-sq.-ft. biomanufacturing facility in Manhattan. The $650 million project will create 500 new, high-paying jobs within the next seven years. The company says the facility will support the development of vaccines that enable an accelerated response to global biological threats. It also intends to provide commercial-level development, manufacturing and bioanalytical testing services at every stage

for biopharmaceutical products on a fee-forservice basis to the global health care industry.

The main drivers behind the Manhattan location are proximity to Kansas State University, a world-class public research university; innovative private-sector partners; critical national security; and Kansas’ skilled workforce.

“With a model that starts with discovery at our Skunkworx subsidiary in North Brunswick, New Jersey, and ends with commercial scale manufacturing here in Manhattan, this facility represents the next stage in our evolution, enabling us to combine speed and agility with the full integration of discovery, development and manufacturing,” said Jeff Wolf, CEO of Heat Biologics, in a press release.

Added David Halverson, president of Heat’s Scorpion subsidiary, “We are very excited to break ground on this new facility. There is a strong demand for world-class biomanufacturing, which we expect to continue well into the future. We intend to help fill that demand with our newest facility in Manhattan, Kansas. The 500,000-square-foot Manhattan facility is being designed to service up to 144,000 liters across 48 bioreactors. Powered by an excellent Kansas workforce, we’re looking forward to rapidly growing and expanding Scorpion, and Manhattan is the perfect location for our newest facility.”

The next time you take Fido to the vet or go shopping for food, treats or supplements for him, thank a researcher in Kansas.

Many of the biggest breakthroughs in animal health are being researched, discovered and developed right now in the Sunflower State — and the typical pet owner or livestock breeder in America doesn’t even know it.

The good folks in Kansas would like to change that perception, and it starts with getting a better handle on what’s actually happening in the state. Within a 250-mile stretch of Interstate 70 from Manhattan, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, are more than 300 animal health-related organizations, including most of the biggest names in the business: Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Simmons Pet Food, Hyper Pet, Sparhawk Laboratories, Biomin, Dechra, Kansas City Treats and Merck Animal Health are just a few of them.

Together, these firms make up the largest concentration of animal health companies found anywhere on the planet. This one corridor accounts for 56% of the total worldwide animal health, diagnostics and pet food sales. It’s also a big reason why Kansas ranks No. 3 in the nation in veterinary vaccine exports and employs over 14,000 people in animal health.

Kansas has built an animal health sciences corridor that is second to none.
Herding heifers in a Kansas pasture. Photo: Getty Images


Given the continuing advances in animal science, this sector is only going to continue to grow. Case in point is what happened recently at Kansas State University in Manhattan. A new study involving the College of Veterinary Medicine at KSU was published and breaks new ground in the prevention of a costly cattle disease known as bovine anaplasmosis.

said Hans Coetzee, study co-author, university distinguished professor and head of the KSU anatomy and physiology department.

Innovation like this is nothing new in Kansas. All around the state, scientists and R&D workers are discovering new cures, medicines, therapies and dietary supplements to enhance animal health constantly. A good example is the Kansas Innovation Dealroom in Topeka.

Launched last summer, The Kansas


What’s happening at GO Topeka is indicative of the kind of innovation occurring statewide. At the 2022 Animal Health Corridor Summit, a number of emerging companies in Kansas were recognized for their entrepreneurship.

One of them is Phoreus Biotech in Olathe. This firm produces peptide nanocarrier platforms which enable the safe delivery of vaccines, therapeutics and biopesticides to both animals and humans.

The vast majority of these innovations are coming out of technology transfer originating at a Kansas institution of higher education. The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor counts 12 such institutions that feed this wave of innovation:

Emporia State University

Johnson County Community College Kansas City Kansas Community College


Established firms are also making their mark in the private pet food sector. Among them is Simmons Pet Food, which recently announced a $500 million expansion plan that includes a fourth high-speed canning line in Emporia, Kansas, and a new pet food distribution center in nearby Edgerton.

“This fourth line in Emporia will be capable of producing 60,000 pounds per hour and will expand the total annual plant output to more than 70 million cases by early 2024,” said Scott Salmon, president of Simmons Pet Food.

The company’s growth plan includes a 750,000-sq.-ft. distribution hub in Edgerton.

“Our publication is unique and is the first in addressing the urgent need to develop a vaccine against an important tick-borne disease,” said Roman Ganta, the study’s senior corresponding author and principal investigator on the project.

“Currently, there is no effective vaccine in the market, so this effort required innovative approaches in developing a vaccine.”

Without an effective vaccine, farmers, ranchers, agricultural companies and food producers around the world will continue to suffer billions of dollars in losses due to this incurable disease.

“Economic impact of the disease is in the billions of dollars of losses annually throughout the world,” Ganta said. “The disease can spread rapidly by mechanical transmission routes, besides being transmitted by over 20 different tick species.”

The primary research was conducted in Kansas, Missouri and California. Leaders in this scientific field are hailing the findings as a game-changer for animal health.

“This is a truly outstanding paper that represents what I believe to be the greatest advance in anaplasmosis vaccine development in 50 years,”

Innovation Dealroom is designed to support scaling tech communities with reliable intelligence and new insights. It is specifically geared to bolster the innovative research taking place year-round in the animal health sciences.

“Topeka’s Plug and Play vertical is excited for the opportunity to showcase our animal health and agtech startups to the broader community and to potentially attract new startups to our accelerator through the Kansas Innovation Dealroom,” said Lindsay Lebahn, Plug and Play Topeka’s program manager.

Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Kansas State University Olathe Metropolitan Community College

Missouri Western State University Northwest Missouri State University

University of Kansas

University of Kansas Medical Center

University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine

William Woods University

“Edgerton is an ideal location for new warehouse capacity and automated packaging operations to streamline the distribution of product to our customers throughout the U.S.,” said Chad Morris, senior vice president of supply chain at Simmons.

The Emporia and Edgerton expansion projects represent $115 million in combined capital investment and will result in the creation of 177 new jobs for Kansans.

The Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas and the Kansas Department of Commerce assisted Simmons in these expansion projects.

The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor accounts for 56% of total worldwide animal health, diagnostics and pet food sales.
Source: Kansas City Animal Health Corridor
This is a truly outstanding paper that represents what I believe to be the greatest advance in anaplasmosis vaccine development in 50 years.”
— Hans Coetzee, Head of Anatomy and Physiology Department, Kansas State University
Photo: Getty Images

Novacoast Inc. opens its new headquarters in downtown Wichita. CEO Paul Anderson addresses reporters to discuss why the company moved from California to Kansas.

Photo courtesy of Novacoast Inc.

Stopping Hackers Is Job One in Kansas

Three of the country’s top cybersecurity schools call the Sunflower State home.

Highly skilled people in Kansas work long hours every day to protect you, your family and your country from cyber-attacks.

Given the increasing incidence and threat of such attacks, the cybersecurity workforce of Kansas is beefing up in training and total numbers.

Gov. Laura Kelly recently announced that cybersecurity company Novacoast Inc. relocated its headquarters to Wichita from Santa Barbara, California. The company is bringing 100 high-wage, high-tech jobs to Kansas and plans to make Wichita a center for cybersecurity training.

“We’ve been impressed with Wichita,” Novacoast CEO Paul Anderson said after opening a 9,700-sq.-ft. Security Operations Center in downtown Wichita last February.

Novacoast provides cybersecurity services to highly regulated global companies including banks, energy companies and healthcare firms. It also has a subsidiary, Novacoast Federal, that provides services to various federal agencies including NASA, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, the Internal Revenue Service and others. Novacoast currently serves 12 of the 20 largest international financial institutions.


Novacoast is not alone. Last year, Torch. AI, a global leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning, announced plans to invest $55 million and create 490 high-wage jobs in Leawood, located in Johnson County in the Kansas City metro area. All of them are fulltime, cybersecurity positions.

Torch.AI uses machine learning to power high-performance data processing. The firm works with local universities to shape the curriculum used to train its workforce.

“It’s an honor to align the growth trajectory of Torch.AI with Kansas initiatives to expand its economy and regional impact as a tech hub,” said Brian Weaver, the founder, chair and CEO of Torch.AI. “Demand for our advanced AI and data services continues to grow as the intelligence and security communities attempt to organize and analyze unprecedented levels of data. We’ve long known there is untapped talent here in the region that can help the government and commercial sectors solve significant challenges.”

Companies like Novacoast and Torch.AI benefit from the world-class cybersecurity education and training delivered at Kansas’ top universities and colleges. Kansas State University in Manhattan, for example, recently added a bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity. The Carl R. Ice College of Engineering at KSU added the program in April 2022 as its 13th bachelor of science program. The curriculum of 120 credit hours, offered through the school’s computer science department, became available in the fall of 2022.

Engineering. “This area has a huge opportunity for growth in our local and state economies, so we are pleased to be able to provide the necessary education to spur that development.”


According to EduRank, the three best cybersecurity schools in Kansas are, in order, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University. All three rank within the top 200 cybersecurity programs in the nation, per EduRank data.

Demand for their skilled graduates will only rise as cybercrime worsens, concludes a new report by CB Insights. The average American corporation today spends upward of $2.4 million a year on cybersecurity, up from $1.5 million the year before. Total data breaches increased from 4.37 million cases in 2015 to more than 7.55 million in 2019.

“One year ago, we expanded our presence to the area, and we’ve come to realize the incredible potential in the city and its people.

This is where we want to grow our company, and officially naming Wichita as our global headquarters is the next natural step.”

According to Cyber Seek, there are more than 2,500 open jobs in cybersecurity in Kansas now. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job market for cybersecurity specialists with bachelor’s degrees will grow by 31% by 2029 and offer a median annual salary of $103,590.

“The addition of the cybersecurity degree program to our portfolio is an exciting one,” said Matt O’Keefe, dean of the KSU College of

The UK has the highest number of cybercrime victims per million internet users at 4,783 as of December 2022, up 40% from 2020, according to London-based AAG. The country with the next highest number of victims per million users is the U.S. with 1,494, a 13% decrease from 2020.

The AAG report also shows that one in two North American internet users had their accounts hacked in 2021.

“ We’ve been impressed with Wichita. One year ago, we expanded our presence to the area, and we’ve come to realize the incredible potential in the city and its people.”
– Paul Anderson, CEO, Novacoast Inc.


the rapid development of engineering, modification, testing and certification” of new and modified aircraft.

In May, NIAR WERX and Portland-based Erickson Precision Ventures announced a collaboration to perform as many as 24 passengerto-freighter (P2F) conversions of the Airbus 321, beginning in 2023. The venture is to produce some 1,500 new jobs. In addition to full-time engineers and engineering students at WSU-NIAR, the program is expected to involve the efforts of students from the WSU Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology, a public community college. WSU Tech’s Get to WERX program offers full-time, paid employment at NIAR WERX to students as they progress through the college’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program.

advanced aerospace materials, and is devoted to enabling advances in lightweight composite technologies. At the Manufacturing Innovation Center, Solvay said in a release, the country’s leading aviation companies will have access to 150,000 sq. ft. of testing and prototyping facilities as well as the latest know-how in advanced aviation material research.

“Companies will be able to fabricate entire aircraft structures such as wings and fuselages at a fraction of the cost of making it themselves,” Solvay said. Using automated and high-rate processing, Solvay and NIAR engineers are to work side-byside with customers to test ideas and innovative structures in real time.

workers), Garmin International (4,000 workers), Bombardier/Learjet (1,500 workers), Atlas Aerospace (800 workers), Honeywell International (600 workers) and Collins Aerospace (535 workers).

In October, Gov. Laura Kelly announced a $14.7 million investment by aerospace parts manufacturer

Pinnacle Aerospace in a new plant in Wellington that’s to create 155 new aerospace jobs. The plant is to assemble hard metal components for the commercial, general, military and space industries. Pinnacle plans to train its new workforce in collaboration with nearby Cowley College Sumner Campus.

Wichita has been promoting itself as the “Air Capital of the World” since the late 1920s, a period during which the city’s Cessna Aircraft Company produced more airplanes than anyone else. Ambitious new programs and facilities launched and unveiled in 2022 at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) have served to bolster that bold and longstanding claim.

Established in 1985, NIAR is the nation’s largest academic aviation research and development institution. With a focus on testing and

certification for airframe technologies among other areas of specialized expertise, NIAR has a staff of 975 and 1.6 million sq. ft. of laboratory and office space spread across six facilities. Its laboratories are producing innovations in additive manufacturing, advanced coatings, advanced materials, virtual engineering and other cutting-edge aerospace disciplines.

In March of 2022, the U.S. Air Force awarded a whopping $100 million follow-on contract to NIAR to continue the digital transformation of the legendary B-1 bomber, the backbone of the military’s strategic bomber force. As the largest such

award ever received by Wichita State, the contract is aimed at breathing new life into the B-1 fleet, now nearly a half-century old, pending the development of a new bomber force.

Just as the B-1 is being rejuvenated, popular passenger aircraft such as the Airbus 321, Boeing 737, Boeing 757 and Boeing 777 are being repurposed as freighters and for other missions through the robust Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility at NIAR WERX. Based out of the former Boeing Air Force One modification facilities adjacent to McConnell Air Force Base, the NIAR WORKS team, according to WSU, “implements innovative and efficient methods for

“The Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul program has been an essential driver in fueling the talent pipeline through career training and education for our students, as well as full-time employment for aircraft and engineering professionals in south central Kansas,” said WSU President Rick Muma. “The MRO has also been a fundamental force in advancing the overall prosperity of Kansas by further establishing our reputation as Air Capital of the World.”


As these examples demonstrate, collaborations with industry are fundamental to NIAR’s mission. Such partnerships seem sure to multiply with the recent opening of the Manufacturing Innovation Center at NIAR’s Advanced Technologies Lab for Aerospace Systems (ATLAS). Established in 2019, ATLAS is a makerspace for industry-scale automated manufacturing research. The facility has grown to employ more than 100 research engineers and student technicians.

The Manufacturing Innovation Center is a partnership between NIAR and Solvay, a global leader in

“Our partnership with NIAR through this joint Manufacturing Innovation Center is an important milestone in Solvay’s ambition to help key customers across the United States advance the future of aerospace and defense,” said Carmelo Lo Faro, president of Solvay’s Materials Segment. “Here, we can explore the advantages of new composite material forms with the latest manufacturing technologies to create a lighter, safer and more sustainable aircraft of the future.”


Spirit Aerosystems, headquartered in Wichita, is the world’s largest tier-one aerostructures manufacturer. The company’s 10,000 workers make it Wichita’s largest employer. In all, more than 450 aviation companies employ more than 41,000 Kansans. They include Textron Aviation (9,500

“We wanted to build our new company here because we knew there was a talented workforce already in place in this community,” said Pinnacle President Scott Brown.

Led by Wichita State, the nation’s top-ranked college for industryfunded aerospace research, Kansas universities are virtually unmatched in the support they provide to aerospace research and aerospace workforce development. The National Center for Aviation Training, managed by WSU Tech, is one of the country’s premier facilities for aviation manufacturing education. The University of Kansas, the state’s largest, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in aerospace engineering, whose programs now are undergoing a rapid expansion of students and faculty. Among a host of other opportunities, Kansas State University Polytechnic offers a nationally recognized unmanned aircraft systems program.

In addition to the pipeline supplied by the state’s universities, military installations such as Ft. McConnell contribute to the Kansas aerospace workforce. McConnell’s workforce of more than 5,000 includes 2,700 activeduty members. Its 22nd Air Refueling Wing is charged with conducting air-refueling operations in any part of the world, in any climate and under any condition, including providing humanitarian assistance.

Kansas wields the history, infrastructure and smarts to make things fly.
Photo: Getty Images
“ ATLAS is the future of aviation manufacturing.”
— John Tomblin, WSU Sr. VP for Industry & Defense Programs

Connecting Kansans to the Fastest Internet Yet

How important is internet access? To say that we cannot live without it may be a stretch, but not a big one. Given the proliferation of devices connected to the internet today, much of the technology that drives modern life now resides on a server somewhere.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly understands this better than most, which is why she’s made expanding broadband access a touchstone of her administration. On November 4, she announced that $15.7 million would be awarded to seven service providers that will bring high-speed

broadband service to underserved communities in her state. The funding is the first of three rounds of awards from the Kansas Capital Projects Funds Broadband Grant Program. Because of it, more than 1,900 homes, businesses, schools, healthcare facilities and other public institutions will gain access to fast and reliable internet service over the next 24 months.

Solving the “last mile” of broadband connectivity is a challenge in remote and rural areas of every state, but Kelly has made it her mission to see that no community in Kansas is left behind. “By connecting nearly 2,000 Kansas homes, businesses

and schools to high-speed internet, we’re continuing to deliver on our goal of giving every Kansan a connection to the world,” the governor said. “We’ve made substantial progress throughout my administration, and this funding knocks down another barrier to ensuring communities across the entire state have broadband access.”

Kansas was one of the first eight states to be awarded funding for this program under the American Rescue Plan Act and was allocated $83.5 million. “We are at 58,000 new households and businesses connected already in the Kelly Administration, and we will not stop until every Kansas resident has the connectivity needed to compete in the digital economy,” said Lt. Gov. and Secretary of Commerce David Toland.


Thanks largely to these and other investments, Kansas today ranks No. 21 among all U.S. states with 76% of its people having access to 1GB broadband, according to BroadbandNow.com.

Around 85% of all households in Kansas currently have access to the internet — and 85% of those have broadband connectivity.

In the overall ranking of internet coverage, speed and availability, BroadbandNow currently ranks Kansas 36th in

the country; and Kansas ranks 39th among all states with 87% of people having access to 100Mbps broadband.


The most connected counties in Kansas are Graham and Russell, with each having 100% access to 100 Mbps coverage. The counties of Ellis, Wyandotte, Osborne and Trego rank just behind the top two with more than 99.5% coverage in each.

The cities with the highest average download speeds in Kansas are Leawood (1,199 Mbps), Prairie Village (1,090 Mbps), Merriam (902 Mbps) and Derby (885 Mbps), according to HighSpeedInternet.com.

The service providers offering the highest internet connection speeds in Kansas, according to HighSpeedInternet, are AT&T, Cox, Xfinity, Earthlink, Synergy, Spectrum, Google Fiber, EIN and Kwikom. There are 68 options altogether for internet service in Kansas, with the largest providers being AT&T, Spectrum and Cox.

For more information and maps on broadband connectivity in specific locations in Kansas, contact the Kansas Office of Broadband Development in Topeka at jade.piros@ks.gov.

The state is doing its part to connect more homes and businesses to broadband.
“ We are at 58,000 new households and businesses connected already in the Kelly Administration, and we will not stop until every Kansas resident has the connectivity needed to compete in the digital economy.”
— Kansas Lt. Gov. and Secretary of Commerce David Toland

Middle America Has Never Looked Better

Logistics end-users value Kansas’ central U.S. location and access to markets.

When your state is located in the geographic center of the country, it stands to reason that logistics and distribution end-users are going to be tempted to move there.

in Olathe.

Logistics Park Kansas City in Edgerton is a 1,550-acre development anchored by a BNSF intermodal hub.

In Kansas, that’s exactly what’s happening. In 2022, the state landed 21 corporate facility investment projects that qualify as “distribution warehouse” or “logistics” plants, according to the Conway Data Inc. Projects Database. This includes everything from a $1 million investment by Fridgetek Inc. in Shawnee to a $326 million investment by Heartland CocaCola Bottling Company LLC

Last year, we reported that the Sunflower State had landed 40 logistics or distribution warehouse plants over the previous three-year period, so the surge in 2022 shows that the investment pace in this sector has accelerated.

Brad Reams, director of Great Plains Industrial Park in Parsons, Kansas, says there are several reasons why logistics users want a site in Kansas.

“What’s great about Kansas is that mega-sites are a common buzzword now,” he says. “Panasonic just landed a $4 billion battery plant near Lawrence [in De Soto] and it’s

Photo courtesy of BNSF

(ABOVE) In November 2022, BNSF announced the 244-acre Dodge City Business Park had become the railroad’s third Certified Site in Kansas, joining a network of 33 Certified Sites in the BNSF network that includes Kansas sites in Newton and New Century.

Photo courtesy of BNSF

(RIGHT) Great Plains Industrial Park

easy to see why. We don’t have to acquire land. We have it assembled already. And we have the highways, the energy and the workforce.”

Great Plains Industrial Park is a former U.S. Army ammunition plant that was closed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005. Located in southeast Kansas, GPIP is just 90 miles from Tulsa, Oklahoma — closer to that metro than any major market in Kansas.

“Parsons has always been a large railyard — the third largest railyard in the U.S. outside of New York and Chicago,” says Reams. “We have 2,900 acres under option now for a solar

array utility-scale development that is being built on our property. We are following through with clean-energy projects, and electric mobility is one of our target industries.”

Spanning some 15,000 acres, GPIP is larger than Denver, says Reams. “We have 1.25 million square feet of warehouse space under roof. We are ready for a big company.”


So are other communities in Kansas. In late 2021, Gov. Laura Kelly welcomed 100 new logistics jobs to Bonner Springs, part of the KC metro area, when Medline, the country’s largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies, announced it would invest $77.5 million to build a new distribution center in town.

In April 2022, Kelly

Image courtesy of GPIP Photo courtesy of GPIP

announced that 127 new logistics jobs would be coming to Olathe as part of a Lineage Logistics distribution center investment. The $110 million plant will serve as a warehouse for Smithfield Foods Inc., a vertically integrated food company and the world’s largest pork processor. Also in 2022, Fagron Compounding Services announced a $31.2 million plant investment in Sedgwick; and Kalmar Solutions invested $19.5 million in Ottawa.

Reams says projects like this are coming to Kansas because communities and developers are willing to invest in the infrastructure it takes to support them.

“In 2014, AT&T came in and laid fiber in our industrial park,” he says. “And we are now undertaking our second major

rail project — a 13.5-mile loop. Water lines have been improved; and we are looking at upgrading our water treatment plant and sewage treatment facilities.”


Like many small towns throughout Kansas, Parsons also offers worker training resources to growing companies that need to hire more workers.

“We have six community colleges and four universities in the region,” Reams notes.

“We signed an agreement with the local community college about 18 months ago to provide training for workers at companies on site.”

Incentives for logistics endusers in Kansas can be generous, adds Reams.

“In Kansas, we have the APEX bill [the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion Act]. It helped us land Panasonic. Locally, we can offer 10-year tax abatements. We have quick permitting. It takes 60 to 90 days max. We have a Foreign Trade Zone. WATCO operates it. We are FTZ 161D out of Wichita.

We have 680,000 square feet of warehouse space and 33 buildings designated as FTZ.”

“ We don’t have to acquire land. We have it assembled already. And we have the highways, the energy and the workforce.”
— Brad Reams, Director, Great Plains Industrial Park, Parsons, Kansas Great Plains Industrial Park Photos courtesy of GPIP Image courtesy of GPIP

Where to Reshore Away from Both Shores

From 2010 to 2020, more than 1 million jobs were reshored back to the United States, according to Reshoring Initiative 2020 Data Report from the Reshoring Initiative. That number has been climbing quickly since the onset of the pandemic in the spring of that year, when global supply chains came under enormous stress.

electronic products, electrical equipment and components, chemicals, plastic and rubber products, medical equipment and supplies and apparel and textiles. The top countries seeing jobs return to the U.S. are China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and India. “China has been the source of 44% of reshoring and is especially vulnerable now due to the perceived risk of decoupling and the rapid rise in Chinese wages,” said Harry Moser, founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative, in June 2022 testimony to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Site Selection magazine’s survey in January 2022 found that 71.5% of national site selection firm respondents said clients were now considering reshoring projects. As for the corporate end-users themselves, 65% of U.S. manufacturing companies want to increase reshoring due to continued supply chain disruptions, according to Fictiv’s 2022 State of Manufacturing Report. Among larger companies, the survey found, nearly threequarters are prioritizing domestic production. Companies seeking a central U.S. location in which to reshore operations are finding room to grow and the workers they require in Kansas. Other assets in strong supply include competitively priced energy, water supply and a pro-business tax and regulatory climate. Spirit Aerosystems, Siemens, Garmin and General Motors are among the companies already reshoring operations to the state.


Key drivers of reshoring before and during the pandemic include proximity to customers, incentives, quality control and costs. The top industries reshoring to the U.S., according to the Reshoring Initiative, are transportation equipment, computer and

Kansas has several incentives in place for businesses reshoring to the U.S. and those already doing business in the state. One is PEAK (Promoting Employment Across Kansas), which allows companies to retain or be refunded 95% of the payroll withholding tax of qualified employees for new jobs created. The Kansas Department of Commerce says larger, high-impact projects that create at least 100 new jobs within two years may be eligible for up to ten years of payroll withholding tax savings.

Another is the High Performance Incentive

Newell Brands (see p. 60) has continued to reshore manufactuing activity to its Coleman plant in Wichita (below and opposite) since an original decision to bring work back to the U.S. a decade ago. Today the operation employs nearly 580 people.

Photo by Christian Naillieux courtesy of Newell Brands Photo by Daniel Wilson courtesy of Newell Brands
(continued on page 61)

The Reshoring Initiative’s 2021 Data Report credited the Sunflower State with 41 reshoring and FDI projects tracked between 2010 and 2021, creating 9,142 jobs. Some of that activity is connected to companies with a long track record in the state.

The Coleman Company was founded and headquartered in Wichita in 1902 by William Coffin Coleman. In fact, the company’s arc

Case Studies in Kansas Reshoring Have History On Their Side

Brands today) reshored the manufacturing of plastic coolers from China to Wichita.


According to a Newell Brands spokesperson, the company reshored additional cooler manufacturing to Wichita in 2014. In 2021 the company moved to add 100 new positions at the plant. And today the operation, which employs 578 people, is pursuing a production capacity expansion that will create over 30 more new fulltime jobs in the first half of 2023.

“It’s a truly fantastic facility and we’re so proud of the work our hardworking employees do there to bring Coleman to life for our consumers,” says Beth Stellato, chief communications officer for Newell Brands.

the Norwich campus hit a dead end, Joe started to entertain the idea of expanding the company to a separate location,” the company account explains. “Through a long decision process, Manhattan, Kansas, became the chosen destination due to the city’s exciting bid, geographical benefits and cultural fit. Not to mention, the Farrar family has a long history of devotion to the Kansas State Wildcats.”

Today the company continues to expand, investing in new lines and equipment. “As companies look to re-shore their ductile iron castings and machining, Farrar remains committed to our extraordinary customer service, exceptional quality, and a strong commitment to continued investments in resources,” said Farrar Corporation President/ CEO Scott Case in a fall 2022 post. “Our company allows you more flexibility over your order dates, increased ability to modify your order quantities, and tighter controls over your tooling and sourcing needs.”

(continued from page 59)

Program, which includes three state tax benefits. The Kansas Investment Tax Credit is 10% of all eligible capital investment that exceeds $50,000 or $1 million in certain metro counties. The Employee Training Tax Credit provides a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit up to $50,000 for training and education expenditures that exceed 2% of total payroll at the worksite. And Sales Tax Project Exemptions (STPE) are available on purchases of materials and services related to capital investment at the worksite.

The most recent addition to Kansas’ business incentives is the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) Act, signed into law by Governor Laura Kelly in February 2022. APEX benefits companies investing more than $1 billion in the state, and it will reduce corporate income tax for all businesses by 0.5% in 2023. The bill helps Kansas compete for large-scale economic development projects, such as the $4 billion EV battery plant for Panasonic Energy now under construction in De Soto.

— Beth Stellato, Chief Communications Officer, Newell Brands, on the company’s steady reshoring and reinvestment at a Coleman manufacturing site in Wichita

lamps lighted the field for one of the first ever night football games at Wichita’s Fairmount College. Coleman himself even served as mayor of the city in 1923-24.

Over the years, like many companies, Coleman offshored some of its manufacturing. But a decade ago Coleman (part of Newell

One of the companies ready to welcome reshoring to the plains of Kansas is ductile iron castings and machined components manufacturer Farrar Corporation. Just before Independence Day in 2022, Farrar reminded the public of its nearly 90 years of American innovation, starting with a blacksmith and repair shop in Norwich, Kansas, southwest of Wichita, founded in 1933 by Ernst Clifford (E.C.) Farrar. “Almost 90 years later, that single shop on main street has evolved into a foundry, a custom pattern shop, a CNC machining facility, along with corporate offices, and a secondary CNC machining facility across the state in Manhattan,” the company said.

That expansion happened in 2000 under the leadership of company president Joe Farrar. “When the search for new land adjacent to

Adam Bruns
“ It’s a truly fantastic facility and we’re so proud of the work our hardworking employees do there to bring Coleman to life for our consumers.”

Knowledge Gives Kansas Workers a Competitive Edge

mployers looking to hire the best and brightest don’t have to look far when they choose to set up shop in Kansas. By a variety of measurements, the talent profile of Kansas scores well above the national average.

But don’t just take our word for it. Listen to those who scrutinize labor markets for a living. One of the very best in that business is Dennis Donovan, principal of Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Donovan has performed hundreds of corporate site selection projects across the country and across the industry spectrum. A founding member of the Site Selectors Guild, he was selected to design and teach the site selection curriculum for CoreNet Global.

When people say that he wrote the book on site selection, they are not wrong.

Here’s what Donovan said about the talent pool available to employers in Kansas: “Kansas has an extensive pool of top-quality workers, ranging from hourly production to engineering. There are a wide range of communities to satisfy varied HR requirements. Like all states, there are strains on supply. But Kansas does engage in robust workforce development and talent attraction programs to address these challenges.”

The factors cited by Donovan were pivotal to Kansas landing the $4 billion electric vehicle battery plant for Panasonic in De Soto last July. That one project is slated to bring 4,000 high-wage jobs to Kansas. The state could not have landed it without a superior talent base.

Here are a few of the leading indicators of the workforce potential of Kansans:

• With a median age of 36.7, Kansas is a very young state full of vibrant, highly educated workers. Roughly 20% of the

state’s population are Millennials, and another 21% belong to Generation Z.

• The average job commute time in Kansas is just 19 minutes, so if employers locate in a typical Kansas community, their workers are generally going to be close.

• Compared to the national average of 87.7%, 90.7% of all Kansas adults have a high school diploma or higher education.

• Compared to 31.5% on average across the U.S., 32.9% of Kansas

adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

• Kansas boasts a highly diversified workforce, with 17.6% working in government; 16% in manufacturing and transportation; 13.1% in healthcare and social assistance; 10.3% in retail trade; 8.1% in accommodation and food service; 7.3% in professional, scientific, technical services and management of companies; 6.6% in finance, real estate and information; 6.1% in administrative and support and waste management and remedial services; and 14.9% in other jobs.

“The so-called ‘brain drain’ that was a regional fact-of-life in the nation’s Heartland during the early years of our site selection firm is no longer a dominant relocation theme,” says John H. “Jack” Boyd, founder and principal of location consultancy The Boyd Company.

“Today, rather, the contrary is now

“ Kansas has an extensive pool of topquality workers, ranging from hourly production to engineering. There are a wide range of communities to satisfy varied HR requirements.”
– Dennis Donovan, Principal, Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting

90.7% of all Kansas adults have a high school diploma or higher education, compared to the national average of 87.7%.

the prominent narrative for states like Kansas.” Boyd says college grads and jobseekers from many of the smaller mid-continent cities in and around Kansas are opting to look for employment and advance their careers in “smaller, more affordable and more satisfying metro areas like a Kansas City or a Wichita or a Topeka rather than Chicago, New York or in California. In fact, Kansas is doing a great job in retaining its talent, now ranking in the top 10 states with the most college students as a percentage of the state population.”


“We find Kansas offers a diverse set of skillsets,” says Tracey Hyatt Bosman, managing director at site selection and incentives advisory consultancy Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co. Those skillsets can be found in a diverse array of places.

One of the largest and most qualified labor sheds in Kansas is the one found in Greater

Topeka. Within a 45-minute drive, employers in this market have access to over 400,000 workers. Many of them come equipped with an education from one of four universities located within a 60mile radius: University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Emporia State University and Washburn University. Together, they have a combined enrollment of more than 60,000 students. Annually, they graduate 12,000 students with a wide variety of degrees.

Greater Wichita has 800,000 people including the No. 1-ranked skilled manufacturing workforce in the nation by percentage of jobs. This region also ranks third in the country by overall percentage of workers holding high-tech jobs. Some 18% of all workers in Greater Wichita build something. That is more than twice the national average.

According to the Brookings Institution, no region in the country experienced higher job growth from 2010 to 2020 than Greater

Wichita, which is also ranked by Engineering Daily as the No. 3 engineering hub in the U.S.

Another regional talent hub is Greater Manhattan, home to Kansas State University. This region boasts 130,000 total residents, including 47,000 workers and 30,000 college students. In Riley County alone, some 52% of all residents possess a bachelor’s degree or higher, with 25% holding a master’s degree. In Pottawatomie County, 33.5% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

KSU annually awards 6,000 degrees. The good news for area employers is that 64% of these graduates say they would prefer to remain in the community for the right job opportunity. Each year, KSU turns out the best animal health science graduates in the nation.

Overland Park, the second largest city in Kansas with

200,000 people, is also its most educated, with over 47,000 residents of the Kansas City suburb in Johnson County holding at least a bachelor’s degree and 30,000 holding a graduate or professional degree.

“The greater Kansas City market — with Johnson County, Kansas, being the epicenter of much of the economic development successes now taking place there — is one of the fastest-growing tech regions in the U.S., housing hubs of telecommunications, logistics, med tech and other areas of expertise,” says Jack Boyd.

“The Kansas City region’s workforce,” says Bosman of an area encompassing Overland Park and a whole lot more, “is considerably more dynamic than most people and businesses realize.”

Source: Kansas Department of Commerce Lawrence, Kansas, home to the University of Kansas, annually produces some of the most talented graduates in the nation — in addition to some pretty good basketball. Photo courtesy of Explore Lawrence

Kansas Connections

State workforce services ensure businesses and talent reach new heights.

Let’s start with the obvious: Talent moves where opportunity proves abundant and the money is motivating.

It’s a cat-and-mouse game. Businesses seeking a readily skilled talent base, while talent finds safety in high-value roles.

This competitive game positions states to establish routes of targeted investment to continuously score top players from both sides, boosting the local economy.

The Kansas Department of Commerce in February 2021 released “Kansas Framework for Growth,” a report detailing challenges the state has been facing and steps to reposition the local economy for long-term growth and stability over the next 15 years.

Four areas highlighted throughout the report are talent, innovation, community assets and policy.

Modernizing the state’s approach to workforce development training, a key focus of the talent pillar, led to initiatives and investments that support both employers and employees. Priority and future-focused initiatives take a state-wide approach to workforce development through education, training programs and industry partnerships.


Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Kansas’ unemployment rate hit 2.3% in June 2022, the lowest in state history. Moving forward, the state plans to continue investment in workforce services resources for employers.

The state offers a range of services to address employer workforce needs:

• Incumbent Worker Training — Workbased training that allows employers to build a quality workforce and increase competitiveness. Training is provided for the purpose of averting potential layoffs or to upskill employees to move up within the company.

• Kansas Industrial Training — A program designed to assist in “net new job” creation. New companies with the intended purpose of adding one or more jobs (requirements vary for expanding companies) in Kansas can train employees on specific skills needed to enter the role. The state additionally offers a industrial retraining program for current employees.

• On-the-Job Training Program —

Provided through KANSASWORKS, the training program allows existing and potential employees to learn new skills while making money. Employers can get up to 50% reimbursement on the wages of newly hired employees associated with loss of production and training costs.

• Kansas Office of Registered Apprenticeship — Connecting employers to local talent to provide mentorship and on-the-job training, gaining knowledge and skills that lead to a long-term role within the company.

• Workforce Aligned with Industry Demand (AID) — Training providers work alongside employers to create relevant curriculum and provide qualifying candidates with an opportunity to learn about the company before moving into training.

Mike Beene, assistant secretary of commerce at Kansas Department of Commerce, oversees workforce services in the state. Starting in 2007 as regional director in Southeast Kansas’s Workforce Services Division, Beene is well versed in addressing pressing workforce issues faced by the state’s employers.

“Employers face a variety of challenges in building, retaining and growing their workforce, including but not limited to labor participation, talent training and access to quality childcare for their employees,” says Beene.

There is no limitation on how often employers can take advantage of state-wide workforce services. All sectors that make up the Kansas economy utilize these services, according to Beene, and the benefits of these programs speak for themselves.

“A skilled workforce is vital in today’s business environment,” says Beene. “Technology, processes and equipment are evolving. A skilled workforce is a must to meet business needs and to keep moving Kansas forward as a great place to do business.”

In 2022, the state introduced two new workforce initiatives, work-based learning and a childcare services tax credit.

Kansas Work Based Learning (WBL) allows employers to showcase their industry, recruit young talent and highlight career opportunities, all while gaining first-hand experience. It’s an integrated partnership among the Kansas

Illustration courtesy of Kansas Department of Commerce

Department of Education, Department of Commerce, Board of Regents and local workforce development boards to expand working relationships among education, economic development and business and industry in the state.

“There are five regional work-based learning intermediaries, one in each region, to connect those areas in each region,” says Beene. “Additionally, intermediaries coordinate career exploration experiences in the identified career clusters for all students that may include job shadows, mock interviews, field trips, internships and career mentoring.”

In May 2022, Governor Laura Kelly signed HB 2237, which included expanding state income tax credits to businesses that provide or help cover childcare costs. It’s a focused move that Beene says remains an integral part of economic growth.

“This expanded tax credit to all businesses levels the playing field so small businesses can attract and retain employees, parents can cover the costs of childcare and children can remain in stable, nurturing environments,” says Beene.


For Julica Oharah, executive director of Sherman County Community Development, industry and institutional collaboration is paramount to bringing skilled talent to a rural northwest Kansas community.

Here the agriculture, cryptocurrency and cybersecurity industries are embodied in fertile land, MasterCard’s CipherTrace and Goodland Tech, respectively.

Northwest Kansas Technical College aims to keep its programming and curriculum updated based on current, past and future employer and student input to keep local talent competitive for new job opportunities.

While agriculture will remain a top industry in this region, tapping into other

industries is essential to rebranding and attracting both companies and labor.

From medical, automotive and computer technology to engineering training programs and more, Northwest Tech is a prime example of an effective workforce service for employers in the state.

“From a standpoint in the whole community, Northwest Tech is doing a great job looking at the needs of our community and the region and adjusting their programs to find and supply workforce,” says Oharah, “seeing what fits the needs of the region and communities around us to help fill those voids that we’ve been needing to fill for a while.”

That makes the college the ideal partner for Goodland Tech, a company that provides U.S. companies top tech talent.

Ben Coumerilh moved to Goodland, Kansas, to become Northwest Tech’s CIO. He had noticed the lack of technical talent or “brain drain” in these types of rural regions. Thus, with help from co-founder Richard Sparrow, Goodland Tech was born.

“They offer a program that leads to an internship, focusing on cryptocurrency and cybersecurity,” says Oharah. “Students get that internship paired with the program and automatically go into the workforce.”

The domino effect resulting from these partnerships aids rural communities’ expansion into new industries, drawing new business investment and increasing the talent pool’s depth while boosting the local economy.

Just two years old, the Sherman County Community Development organization is building a strong relationship with longstanding workforce services like KANSASWORKS, which covers the entire state. As new businesses move into Goodland, open communication within these partnerships will help Oharah and employers land ideal talent.

Vytelle announced on Dec. 6 that it would relocate its global headquarters from Hermiston, Oregon, to Lenexa, Kansas, about 15 months after the company secured $13.2 million in Series A funding from a collection of Midwest- and Kansasbased investors.

“We’re excited to put down roots in the Midwest and call Kansas City home to our global headquarters,” said Kerryann Kocher, CEO of Vytelle. “The Kansas City-based headquarters will foster both local and global industry collaboration along with accessibility to the customers we serve in the U.S. We thank the animal health and agriculture community of Kansas City for welcoming us.”

Vytelle serves beef and dairy producers in 20 countries, using technology to advance progress in sustainable production. The new headquarters will serve as the primary hub for the company’s global operations.

We recently caught up with a spokesperson for Vytelle who filled us in on why the company made the big move.

Why did you choose this location?

VYTELLE: Vytelle chose Lenexa — near Kansas City — the heart of America in the Midwest, to be uniquely positioned to serve our clients rooted in the food animal

Vytelle Chooses Lenexa as Global Headquarters

agriculture industry. Kansas City is home to largest concentration of industry professionals devoted to the health, well-being, and genetic progress of animals.

Does the move represent an expansion of your operations?

VYTELLE: Vytelle helps cattle producers accelerate the right genetics faster. Currently, Vytelle is driving and leading the market with 14 global bovine in vitro fertilization laboratories and serves customers in 20 countries to replicate the right genetics faster.

Vytelle is the fastest growing bovine IVF company in the world, growing four times faster than the market.

Tell us about the site selection process your team went through.

VYTELLE: The Greater KC area is located in the Animal Health Corridor, the country’s largest concentration of animal health, animal nutrition and diagnostics industry players.

Vytelle is looking to take advantage of these assets to facilitate our growth. Much of our client base is located in the Midwest. Access to talent is vital and working with industry organizations and research institutions to further our R&D pipeline will continue to position Vytelle as an industry leader.

KC is centrally located in the US and easy to reach for meetings. The KCI airport expansion resulting in more flight connections makes travel easier.

Also, the City of Lenexa has been very cooperative. The newly developed business district offers many amenities that make it easy to host meetings of various sizes — retreats, client meetings, shareholder meetings, etc. There are many dining and shopping options, recreational facilities close by and within walking distance.

Vytelle is using this HQ office as a central hub for our distributed physical and virtual teams to come together in person periodically and meet.

Vytelle serves beef and dairy producers in 20 countries. Photo courtesy Vytelle
“ A skilled workforce is vital in today’s business environment. Technology, processes and equipment are evolving. A skilled workforce is a must to meet business needs and to keep moving Kansas forward as a great place to do business.”
— Mike Beene, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Kansas Department of Commerce

Town & Gown Get Along Just Fine Here

As her job title suggests, Robinson wears many hats, but none are more important than the one she wears to communicate this aligned vision to the community, the state and the world at large.

“We protect any intellectual property that comes out of K-State,” she says. “We take that protected IP and commercialize

development. It is not an afterthought to engage the university. On the university side, we have people whose job it is to connect people in the private sector in a very intentional way. That is why we have been nationally and internationally recognized.”

How Kansas built a network that cultivates partners in innovation.

Any employer evaluating a prospective business location knows that access to an available, qualified workforce is the most important site selection factor.

A legitimate question for site selectors to ask, then, is this: Do the people who run a community’s higher education system know and believe that too?

In Manhattan, Kansas, the answer is a resounding yes, they do. We recently caught up with Rebecca Robinson, chief corporate engagement and

economic development officer at Kansas State University Innovation Partners. Her ability to articulate the needs of the business community — and how they align with the mission of the university — was second to none.

The fact that KSU had the foresight to create a position that combines economic development, corporate engagement and innovation advocacy into one office speaks volumes of the school’s commitment to meeting the needs of Kansas businesses and growing the state economy.

it through licensing and startups. We do corporate engagement. We support companies’ continuing education needs. Our undergrads serve as interns and are hired as new employees. We do economic development work. We build and maintain robust partnerships with the local community and the larger region, and we leverage the university assets to accomplish all of this.”

KSU had the vision to merge all of these missions into one cohesive effort long before most places in America even had an economic development office. “Our office has existed since the 1940s,” Robinson says. “We have added to our responsibilities over the years.”

The university’s relationship with the community drives regional success and sets KSU apart from other schools, Robinson notes. “K-State and Manhattan have the No. 1 town-gown relationship in the country, according to the Princeton Review. We are fully aligned with the community’s economic development mission. We formalized that relationship in 2008. The university has a seat at the table when it comes to community and business


The biggest success, she adds, came when the partnership played a pivotal role in the efforts to bring the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) to Manhattan. “That is a significant $2.5 billion federal lab win for Manhattan and the region,” says Robinson.

Overall, Robinson’s office has participated in the recruitment of 23 technology companies to Manhattan and helped bring over 600 high-wage jobs to the area. Her efforts have been nationally recognized, culminating in Robinson being named president of the University Economic Development Association for 2022.

KSU has many strengths, she notes. Technology transfer is one of them. “Our organization has a strong tech transfer team,” she says. “We believe it is important to get innovation out into the world through commercialization. Our team is highly ranked nationally in our rate of licensing.”

Long known as a leader in engineering and animal health, KSU is also forging a reputation for expertise in small grains

Photos courtesy of KSU
“ We have committed to creating 3,000 new jobs and contributing $3 billion in new investment to the state over the next 10 years.”
– Rebecca Robinson, Chief Corporate Engagement and Economic Development Officer, Kansas State University Innovation Partners

Kansas’ Best Bargain:

A Community College Degree

The backbone of any state workforce development system is its network of community and technical colleges. It’s no different in Kansas, where 19 community colleges speak with one voice when it comes to worker preparation and training.

The Kansas Community College system educates and trains more than 100,000 students each year and serves as the state’s primary workforce development and training arm. The system’s 19 colleges provide the most affordable higher education option in Kansas while meeting both the individual and collective needs of students, businesses and communities.

How affordable is an associate’s degree or certificate in Kansas? Consider this: A Kansas resident can attend a Kansas community college at no cost through the use of the Kansas Promise Scholarship.

Here’s how it works: The $10 million Kansas Promise Scholarship Fund is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning that it is applied after all other federal aid and any outside scholarships are subtracted from the student’s total bill. The scholarship covers tuition, fees, books and supplies for all classes up to attainment of an associate’s degree. The Kansas legislature has already fully funded the program for 2023.

While there are income limits for students who qualify, they are generous. For a family of three, the household income must be equal to or less than $150,000 for a student to qualify.

The Kansas Promise Scholarship enables the vast majority of students in Kansas to attend college debt-free at any one of these 19 schools:

• Allen County Community College

• Barton County Community College

• Butler County Community College

• Cloud County Community College

• Coffeyville Community College

• Colby Community College

• Cowley Community College

• Dodge City Community College

• Fort Scott Community College

• Garden City Community College

• Highland Community College

• Hutchinson Community College

• Independence Community College

• Johnson County Community College

• Kansas City Kansas Community College

• Labette Community College

• Neosho County Community College

• Pratt Community College

• Seward County Community College

For students not qualifying for Kansas Promise, a community college education is still the least expensive option in the state, costing on average just $1,300 for 15 credit hours per semester.

agriculture, development of climate-resistant crops, and cybersecurity. “We are certainly educating a strong workforce in each of these areas; and we are doing notable research work in those spaces.”

Looking forward, Robinson says her organization is focused on the university’s new Economic Prosperity Plan.

“As a part of that plan, we have

committed to creating 3,000 new jobs and contributing $3 billion in new investment to the state over the next 10 years. Our organization will be central to delivering on that promise to the state. That will generate new innovation that will be commercialized in the private sector and drive prosperity throughout the state. We will then leverage those assets into more robust partnerships.”



Robinson adds that “what we’re doing in Kansas is working,” and she is quick to give credit to other schools. While KSU in 2017 received an Innovation and Economic Prosperity Designation held by over 60 universities nationally, the University of Kansas received it in 2015.

“In 2022, Wichita State University received it. All three major state research universities have received that designation and gone through the process,” she says. “From a state perspective, that indicates the commitment that Kansas’ universities have to driving innovation in the state.”

At KU in Lawrence, research discoveries in multiple fields are changing the world. KU is one of just 35 U.S. public institutions in the Association of American Universities. KU accounted for $292.6 million in externally funded research expenditures in FY2021; and some 3,974 individuals at KU were supported by externally funded research expenditures.

KU operates 12 designated research centers that bring

together world-class faculty to conduct groundbreaking research. Much of this work takes place at KU Innovation Park, adjacent to the KU campus in Lawrence. This unique project works directly with local employers to develop specific talent pipelines, establish publicprivate partnerships, accelerate development of solutions to technical problems, and leverage KU’s many resources and analytical capabilities.

At Wichita State, tech transfer and commercialization are core principles of the university. More than 50 disclosures have been received since the start of FY2021 at WSU, and 21 new license agreements have been executed since the start of FY2018. Fiscal year 2022 set a new record for licensing revenues received at WSU.

WSU also is Kansas’ only urban-serving university. A testimonial to the success of WSU was given recently in the words of senior marketing major Lauryn McIntyre: “Wichita State has helped me put marketing strategy in a real-world perspective. I really had to, essentially, trust myself.”

Something Ventured

The mission of the KSU Foundation’s Edge District is to provide co-location opportunities for partners who enhance and are enhanced by Kansas State University assets and talent.

Dig into the national data and you’ll find Kansas playing a more and more prominent role in sparking innovation.

The Q3 2022 Venture Monitor report from PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association showed no fewer than nine deals that took place in the bistate Kansas City area, including three in Kansas: surgical device firm Artio Medical’s $28 million late-stage funding in Prairie Village; Olathe-based biotech firm Ronawk’s $2 million early-stage funding; and an $11 million investment in software firm Idle Smart, based in Overland Park.

land for a third building, potentially bringing the total project to over 150,000 sq. ft. and creating more than 200 new jobs.

The company two years ago changed its name from Metactive Medical to Artio, a Latin word meaning “to place with a tight fit.” By every indication, Prairie Village, Johnson County and Kansas as a whole are the right fit for the company.

Artio Medical last spring received FDA approval of its first device, a product called the Solus Gold Embolization Device, designed to reduce or block blood flow in blood vessels. The company’s growth, however, is flowing nicely. In December 2021 the City Council of Olathe approved a development agreement granting land to the company for commercial manufacturing operations where Artio plans to build two commercial manufacturing buildings on an 18-acre parcel. The agreement also grants Artio the right to to acquire adjacent

“This is an exciting time for Artio as we prepare for the commercialization of our first products and scale our commercial manufacturing capability,” said Wendy Sawyer, senior vice president of operations and quality for Artio Medical. “The combination of a skilled work force, a community with an exceptional and affordable quality of life, the availability of adjacent land to accommodate future growth, and an attractive incentive package made Olathe the right choice.”


In just the bio space alone, according to BioNexusKC, facilities ready to foster innovation and build partnerships include

Across Kansas, facilities on and off campus know how to foster startups and innovation.

K-State is one of three research universities in Kansas.
Image courtesy of KSU Foundation

Phase III of KU Innovation Park opened in summer 2022, providing ample space for resident companies to continue expanding while new startups continue to multiply.

Biomedical Devices of Kansas (BMDK), a contract medical device company in Tonganoxie (northeast of the university town of Lawrence on the KC outskirts) that offers a business accelerator for human or animal health medical device companies. The operation provides design services, proof of concept, prototypes and production for from concept to commercialization.

In Lawrence proper you’ll find KU Innovation Park (formerly the Bioscience & Technology Business Center), which began as a 51,400-sq.-ft. facility with wet lab and office space and offers “professional business services to emerging bioscience and technology companies, spinouts from KU, KU research collaborations and established companies benefiting from close proximity to university assets.” A separate 20,000-sq.-ft. facility, known as the BTBCKUMC Facility, is located at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

Officials in summer 2022 held the grand opening for Phase III of KU Innovation Park, a 68,000-sq.ft. wet lab and office building supported by $7.8 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. “There isn’t a whole lot of wet lab space in the region. It’s expensive to develop, and if a company wanted to grow, they typically had to leave

the region,” said Adam Courtney, KU Innovation Park’s CFO. “Our facility fills that gap, and we continue to see high demand for the space.”

The 63 current and graduate companies affiliated with KU Innovation Park have created 590 jobs and $36 million in payroll. Leaders expect the new building to house 12 companies and anticipated the space would be completely booked before 2023 rolled around, primarily because companies in the park’s earlier phases are ready to grow more. A separate $1.5 million EDA Build to Scale investment will support a new accelerator suite program and space to house additional startup companies on site.

“These facilities will help to diversify our economy by growing more tech, research, science and business jobs,” Courtney said in a November 2022 release. “They will also make it more resilient.”

The ultimate goal? Ten buildings and 800,000 sq. ft. of space, which would host as many as 4,000 jobs.


Plug and Play Topeka runs an animal health program that launched its first cohort of startups in 2020 based in part on interest from corporate partners including Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Cargill and utility Evergy. The organization in August 2022 named 12 more startups in its fourth cohort. Spanning five countries, their innovations range across food safety, sustainable packaging, AI, alternative proteins, pet health and

wellness and livestock monitoring. “We are lucky to have such engaged corporate partners that aren’t afraid of change and willing to think innovatively to help disrupt and shape this industry,” Lindsay Lebahn, program manager for Plug and Play Topeka, says. “We currently have 12 pilots/projects between our corporate partners and startups they have met through Plug and Play including two partnerships, Hill’s and Bond Pet Food as well as Cargill and Sten Co.”

Asked how Silicon Valley-based Plug and Play chose Topeka, she says, “Topeka was very bold! GoTopeka, the economic development arm of The Greater Topeka Partnership, actually came out to Plug and Play Headquarters and pitched the idea to open a vertical in Topeka around Animal Health. They presented the entire vision right off the bat. It was the first time an economic development group had ever approached us.”

That proactivity is part of what she would convey to corporate decision-makers.

“I still think we are a hidden gem,” she says. “Our region is very welcoming and collaborative, which are two huge pieces of the puzzle. We are surrounded by top universities and government advocacy being the state capital and have robust incentives programs that hopefully make it hard to fail.”

Other sites cultivating Kansas innovation include the Edge Collaboration District in

Manhattan, where Kansas State University Office and Research Parks has overseen development of multi-tenant and dedicated office and lab buildings adjacent to the KSU campus and the National Bio & Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) “with several shovel-ready sites available.”

Among the companies in the district are Garmin International, Merck Animal Health, ag-tech innovator Topcon Agriculture, U.S. Stone Industries and an office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. K-State Office Park says five phases — including a proposed Ag Innovation Hub — will add 310,000 sq. ft. of flexible research and office space to the community when completed.

The Kansas State University Research Foundation does business as K-State Innovation Partners, which has tallied 175 economic partnerships to advance client companies, invested in or helped launch 18 companies and was involved in 35 technology licensing agreements in FY 2020.

Sherilyn McRell, operations manager for the KSU Foundation, tells me the goal of the Edge Collaboration District “is to provide state-ofthe-art co-location opportunities for partners who enhance academics and research on campus, contribute industry expertise, promote regional and international collaborations, access student talent and align with the university’s land-grant mission.”

Photo courtesy of KU Innovation Park

‘Every New Business Begins With a Tourist’

In Kansas, they like to say that every new business starts with a tourist. That’s true because tourism is an economic development driver.

“Every new resident is a visitor first and each new business investment begins with a trip,” notes the Kansas Department of Commerce on its official web page. “Tourism is the welcoming committee for capital investment. The marketing efforts of Kansas Tourism highlight the lifestyle and amenities of the state.”

Those are more than just words on a website. The Governor’s Office of Kansas and the folks at the DOC put them into action by funding the places and events that keep visitors coming to the Sunflower State and spending money.

On October 28, 2022, Gov. Laura Kelly announced grants totaling almost $2 million to boost the state’s tourism sector. The funds are going directly to eight tourism projects across the state. These Tourism

Attraction Sub-grants for Kansas (TASK) were presented by Lt. Gov. and Secretary of Commerce David Toland and Kansas Tourism Director Bridgette Jobe at Strataca: Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson.

Here’s how Kansas is turning tourism into economic development.
All images courtesy of Kansas Tourism Kayaking at Crawford State Park in Farlington.

Tourism is the ninth largest employer in the state. The sector generates $11.8 billion in economic output per year, employs 66,000 people and saves the average Kansan roughly $600 annually in taxes.

“Kansas is increasingly becoming a destination state for tourists around the world,” Gov. Kelly said. “By developing new and enhanced tourist attractions, we’re growing an industry that employs tens of thousands of Kansans, brings billions of dollars into our economy and preserves our rich history for generations to come.”

Lt. Gov. Toland added: “These grant recipients contribute greatly to the growth of sustainable and memorable travel experiences across our state. We are investing in communities across Kansas because we know the value and benefit tourism dollars bring to our local, regional and state economies.”

The TASK recipients include:

• City of Great Bend Convention & Visitors Bureau in Barton County

• Flint Hills Discovery Center in Riley County

• Grassroots Arts Center in Russell County

• Horse Thief Reservoir Benefit District in Hodgeman County

• Johnson County Park & Recreation District in Johnson County

• Miners Hall Museum Foundation in Crawford County

• Strataca: Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Reno County

• The Nature Conservancy in Logan County.

“The TASK projects being awarded elevate our visitor experience and make Kansas an even greater tourism destination,” said Kansas Tourism Director Bridgette Jobe. “New and improved

attractions bring more visitors to our state and local communities.

These same visitors will dine at local restaurants, stay in hotels and shop at local stores.”

Other great places to visit in Kansas include:

• The Ellis County Historical Society Museum in Hays

• The Kansas City, Kansas Taco Trail, a haven for famous TexMex eateries

• The Rosewood Winery & Wine Cellar

• The A&H Farm and Pumpkin Patch in Manhattan

• The Oz Museum in Wamego

• Botanica Wichita

• The Haunted 1889 McInteer Villa in Hutchinson

• The Buffalo Bill Bronze Sculpture in Oakley

• The Land & Sky Scenic Byway in Goodland.

• The Missile Silo Adventure Tours in Wilson.

For more information about places to see and things to do in Kansas, contact the Kansas Tourism office at 785-296-2009 or visit the agency’s website at www.travelks.com.

Strataca Underground Salt Mine Muesum in Hutchinson Ralph Mitchell Zoo in Independence Fick Fossil Museum in Oakley Dalton Gang Hideout in Meade

Strength In Small Numbers

Franklin County to the southwest of the Kansas City area, over 12,000 residents give meaning to the phrase ‘small town strength,’ as the locally nicknamed “10-minute town” economy thrives year after year.

I asked Paul Bean, executive director of the Franklin County Development Council, what drove Ottawa’s 140-place rank improvement in POLICOM’s McrSA rankings and he said, “I would attribute this to our pro-growth activity. We have invested in a new industrial park, supported expansion of existing industry, and facilitated new housing at historic levels. Our unemployment rate in Franklin County has been at or below 3%. In addition, our location close to industrial growth to the north has provided us an opportunity to see economic benefits from the regional growth.”

Ottawa received an over $21 million expansion investment in June 2022 from Kalmar. A subsidiary of Cargotec, the terminal tractor manufacturer established its North American operations here in 1943, when it was known as Ottawa Steel Products.

Policom’s 2022 Kansas Micropolitan Economic Strength Rankings

Micropolitan Statistical Area 2018 2022

Ottawa 202 62

Dodge City 136 65

Salina 91 86

Garden City 224 192

Pittsburg 372 258

Liberal 375 345

McPherson 128 236

Atchinson 524 492

Hutchinson 270 268

Hays 229 395

Emporia 425 438

Great Bend 348 449

Parsons 470 476

Coffeyville 440 488 Winfield 402 501

Lenexa is not only the host of the annual Spinach Festival, it’s also home to the new global HQ of Vytelle.

Courtesy of Kansas Tourism

Kansas knows a thing or two about small towns.

Only five cities — Wichita, Overland Park, Kansas City, Olathe and Topeka — hold over 100,000 residents. The state is home to 2.9 million people in all, 1.3 million of whom live in the 10 largest cities in Kansas.

The other 1.6 million reside throughout the state’s more than 600 cities. These communities, though small in population quantity, run high in people quality.

Outside of the bustling city, these towns work to support the state’s leading industries including food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, aerospace and defense, agriculture and more. In doing so, they build a name for themselves in Kansas and around the globe, toting healthy local economies to show for it.



Data from POLICOM’s 2022 Metropolitan Micropolitan Economic Strength Rankings show that several micro areas (populations fewer than 50,000) in Kansas are on the rise.

The index delves into the dynamics of local economies of both metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and micropolitan statistical areas (McrSAs), analyzing then scoring based on factors that lead to area growth or decline. POLICOM scores are based on three different groups of factors: The first analyzes the overall size and quality of the MSA or McrSA based on employment, earnings and wages. The second group looks at how the economy is behaving, primarily looking into how small businesses, construction and retail industries are reacting. The final group includes negative factors that reflect a poor economy, including welfare and Medicaid assistance.

Accounting for the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on local economies and employment, these effects yield various results within the state’s rankings as recovery continues. While larger Kansas cities saw a decline in economic strength rankings, some of the state’s smaller communities were able to reach new heights over the past four years.


In Ottawa, Kansas, a city nestled in

The expansion supports increased demand for eco-friendly, electric equipment non-reliant on fossil fuels. Kalmar’s investment will add additional factory space and a new assembly line, featuring technology that will enable highvolume production of fully electric terminal tractor models by 2023.

The city serves global businesses such as Kalmar, Walmart and American Eagle and nurtures its own homegrown small businesses including Midwest Cabinets and Hasty Awards. Successful growth, backed by talent fostered within this small community, has led to sustained reinvestment through expansions over the years, with Hasty Awards also expanding in 2023.

“Ottawa has a positive impact on the state of Kansas. We provide a quality of life outside of the metropolitan area that is becoming more and more attractive to workforce since the pandemic,” says Bean. “In addition, our local industry supports national and international partners, which brings revenue to our state and good jobs. Our community welcomes growth and is working to support the growth we see coming for the next decade.”

How does Bean envision this growth on the horizon? By having valuable assets on-hand for future employers looking at the state. Access to adequate healthcare and quality education paired with a $26 million, 300-acre shovelready site at Proximity Park are strong signs the city will continue to be open for business.


Dodge City, Salina, Garden City, Pittsburg and Liberal also saw significant improvement in POLICOM’s rankings. According to Conway Data’s Projects Database, that improvement is reflected in the growth of their industries. Companies are committed to these smaller communities and showing they are content to stay and believe in the local talent.

The database shows that since 2021, Salina, Kansas, scored four expansion projects totaling over $14 million in investment and nearly 300 new jobs. Liberal gained three expansions in 2021, totaling $339.5 million. As for Pittsburg, two investments for expanding operations scored the city $2.9 million since 2021.

The most impressive project list goes to Dodge City, which pulled in over $600 million in new or expansion investments since last year, resulting in more than 250 new jobs at companies such as Hilmar Cheese (with a $460 million project), Koch Industries and Cargill Meat Solutions.

Dodge City and Garden City are both among the fastest growing cities in the state according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Since 2010, Dodge City has seen a 5.7% increase in its population which is now over 27,700. Garden City saw a bit more with a 8.1% increase bringing its population to over 28,000.

These numbers can be expected to rise as businesses continue to discover the magic that exists within Kansas’s micropolitan areas.

Micropolitan areas outperform Kansas metros in recent economic rankings.
Data provided by Policom

The Tug of The Art Land

In “PrairyErth,” an allencompassing survey of one small grain of Middle America, the celebrated author William Least Heat-Moon identified Chase County, Kansas, as the heart of the Heartland, the point at which a coast-to-coaster driving from the East might well be struck by a sudden realization “that she has at last arrived in the American West.” Upon that lonely, grassy prairie, Heat-Moon wrote in 1991, “the world changes in a few miles from shadows to nearly unbroken sunlight, from intermittent breezes to a wind blowing steadily as if out of the lungs of the universe.”

A place where ‘nothing happens’ and its lessons from the galaxy.

It is out there in just such a prairie zephyr that Chase County sculptor, innkeeper and activist Bill McBride, steward of his 40-acre Matfield Station in the town of Matfield Green, politely excuses himself and promises to phone back. It’s an early

afternoon in early December, and McBride, 70, is leading another group of guests through the wild, outdoor menagerie that is his Prairie Art Path. The caller can hear the wind, almost feel it. Back in his home studio, Chicago transplant McBride takes a stab at explaining the lure of the prairie, that strange tug that has drawn so many artists to Matfield Green that a village “where Americans thought there’s nothing happening of interest,” believed Heat-Moon, has since cast an improbable spell on the art world. Its assorted artisans, writers, painters and famous photographers include two Guggenheim fellows. Its galleries have drawn visitors from around the world. This in a town whose population is give-or-take 60.

— he is in his early 60s — included big-time assignments in places like New York, Paris and Basel and kicking around with some outsized literary outlaws. How did he land in little Matfield Green?

“That’s the $20,000 question,” he says. But then the Kansas City native, who’s renting out a flat for $450 a month, is quick to note that the prairie “just got under my skin.”

And how.

pretty much everywhere. Among them were Diana and Kelly Werts, artists and musicians who were living in Kansas City. They are among those who have since followed the call of the prairie to Matfield Green.

pondering things.”

The Prairie Art Path in Matfield Green, Kansas

“On the prairie,” McBride says, “there are very few trees. You can see where you are on the Earth. You can almost feel the Earth’s curvature. So, it feels like a place to connect. You really feel like you’re part of the Earth. And then at night, it’s like ‘My God, there’s the stars!’ Things sort of come to life, and you start to see things in a different way.”


Philip Heying can wax poetic about the prairie, as well. Heying is one of Matfield Green’s two Guggenheim fellows, both photographers, which should perhaps come as no surprise given the otherworldly visual palette that surrounds them.

“Every photographer wants to come out here,” Heying laments.

“Out here” is the Flint Hills. The prairie once stretched from Texas to Canada, about 150 million acres. Having lost out largely to agriculture, about four million acres of unspoiled prairieland remain, some 80% in the Flint Hills, which covers parts of eastern Kansas and northcentral Oklahoma.

Heying’s path to the prairie

“If you’re a human at all,” he believes, “the prairie is a part of your natural constitution. I just think sometimes that what I’m connecting with and experiencing is something that’s just so deep in terms of what it is to be a human. It goes clear back to the first steps that humans took 6 million years ago. I think the thing that distinguishes the prairie the most is that you’re standing there, and right in front of your face there’s going to be evidence of both quantum events and the infinity of the galaxy.”


Beginning with author Heat-Moon, an esoteric cast of characters served to tug Matfield Green — a village denizens describe as outwardly boring, a place defined, says one, “less by what it is than what it isn’t” — onto a path that made it both a subject of the art world and a somewhat incongruous example of simplified living during these overheated times.

Wes Jackson, founder of the Salina-based Land Institute, identified Matfield Green as a model of connection between land and people, and proceeded to buy up and renovate abandoned properties, spruce up common areas and spread progressive ideals. Enter a couple from the Netherlands, well-travelled in the art world, who followed the call of “PrairyErth” to Matfield Green. They renovated a barn and hung some art, and in marched connoisseurs from

“We just started coming here because this couple had started an art gallery that featured incredible work, just all kinds of stuff,” says Diana, a painter. “You walk into an old farmstead, and here’s this art that just blows you away. I felt like I was having so many more exciting conversations out here than in Kansas City. I think it’s because everything is so grounded in something, which is the love of the land.”

In her new home in the Flint Hills, the prairie emerges for Werts as both subject matter and source of renewal. The artists of Matfield Green seem to view the prairie’s rolling waves as agents of constant change.

“I have an Inland Sea Series,” Werts says. “It is representative of me driving through these hills and imagining it when it was in the Permian Sea. So, the hills are covered with water, and that was a period of extinction. It was after the extinction that the seed head plants came, all these beautiful grasses that change all year long. Just the joy of those grasses alone is enough to keep me here and keep me

Before even moving to Matfield Green, the Werts bought some properties — an abandoned speakeasy and a gymnasium — with hopes to convert them to useful ends. Whether it happens or not seems beyond the point of their fulfilling yet uncomplicated lives, which include sharing chores and foodstuffs with neighbors. Diana is serene —with Kelly chiming in off-speaker — chatting on a Saturday morning with a reporter who asks if it’s real that it’s 17 degrees out there.

“I don’t know,” she answers. “I haven’t been out yet.”


Bill McBride is working hard to reimagine “The Bank,” a former gallery and gathering spot, as an arts and welcome center, “to help people make deeper connections with the prairie and its inhabitants.” He’s looking at $250,000 for the project, and he’s a long way from getting it raised. To his amazement, Kansas Commerce arranged a fundraising trip to Matfield Green by Lieutenant Gov. and Commerce Secretary David Toland.

“He came down with about 20 other state officials,” McBride marvels. “It was unprecedented. They came to us rather than us going to them. We met right here in my studio.”

The Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, which is part of Kansas Commerce, offers nine different programs and initiatives to help strengthen Kansas communities through arts and culture, according to Interim Director Kate Van Steenhuyse, herself a painter.

“My experience in Kansas is that there’s a sense of real possibility here,” Van Steenhuyse says. “After having lived in places like San Francisco and New York City, there’s a sense of physical space here and a sense that people are excited to try new things. They’re excited about new ideas.”

The Tug of The Art Land ART HAVENS
Courtesy of Bill McBride Inland Sea Milkweed #5 Courtesy of Diana Werts

Tools You Can Use:

Kansas Programs Enable Personal, Community and Business Growth

When Kansas Governor Laura Kelly in February 2022 announced that 40 rural Kansas communities would receive more than $17.6 million in Community Development Block Grants, the news reflected only one aspect of a range of successful programs supporting placemaking and quality of life across the state’s 105 counties.

For 40 years, vendors have been providing farm-to-table food at the Downtown Overland Park Farmers’ Market in the suburban Kansas City community, home to one of 28 Kansas Main Street programs.

Photo by Ben Pieper courtesy of Visit KC

“These grants will help our communities improve public safety, revitalize vital infrastructure and maximize economic opportunity for our Kansas families,” Gov. Kelly said then. “Community Development Block Grants strike at the core of what we all want to achieve for Kansas,” added Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland, “strong communities, healthy families and a high quality of life.”

The street improvements, housing rehabilitation, fire engines and water system improvements wrought by those grants literally lay the groundwork for economic development to come to small towns across the state. Among the categories targeted by CDBG grants in 2023 are several important to companies evaluating growth opportunities: regional water planning and water and sewer infrastructure; community facilities such as centers, libraries, parks and trails; childhood education and childcare facilities; and youth job training.

But the reach of Kansas community development programs extends further:

The Community Service Tax Credit Program allows private, non-profit organizations and public health care entities to improve

their ability to undertake significant capital campaigns for projects involving children and family services, non-governmental crime prevention, youth apprenticeship or youth technical training, and health care. Specially selected non-profits are allowed to offer tax credits to donors making contributions to the approved projects, with applicants allowed to request up to $200,000 in tax credits.

Applicant organizations in rural areas (< 15,000 population) are eligible for a 70% credit. Applicant organizations in non-rural areas are eligible for a 50% credit.

Kansas Main Street is a self-help, technical assistance program that “targets revitalization and preservation of downtown districts through the development of a comprehensive strategy,” says the Kansas Department of Commerce, noting that the national Main Street program born in the 1970s has blossomed into a network of nearly 2,000 communities in more than 40 states. Before the Kansas Main Street program was temporarily eliminated a decade ago, more than $600 million in redevelopment took place in participating Kansas Main Street communities. “This included the opening or expansion of 3,800 small businesses, creating more than 8,600 new jobs,” the state says. “With the return of the state program in 2020, 28 previously participating communities and new programs will once again have the resources and tools they need to breathe new life into their communities and historic commercial districts.”

The Kansas Individual Development Account Tax Credit Program allows administering organizations to provide qualified Kansans of low income levels the opportunity to achieve financial self-sufficiency through education and asset development via special savings accounts.

“An Individual Development Account, also known as an “IDA,” is a savings account for low-income workers that can be used for small-business development, higher education, or the purchase of a first home,” the state says, including specialized training. Kansans with higher income levels can help others achieve financial independence by contributing to the program while receiving a 75% income tax credit for their donation to the program.

The Kansas Office of Broadband Development was established in 2020. The Broadband Acceleration Grant program is Kansas’ first state-funded competitive

broadband grant opportunity to fund projects that facilitate access to high-quality internet service to Kansas homes, businesses and communities, with plans to invest $85 million over 10 years to bridge the digital divide.

“Kansans need high-speed internet to access healthcare, education, commerce and so much more,” said Gov. Kelly. “This funding is critical in our bold push to adequately connect and equip every part of Kansas for prosperity and growth, and to ensure that our state can compete economically.” The program followed on the Connectivity Emergency Response Grant program funded through the state SPARK program, which generated more than $65 million in total investment through 66 broadband infrastructure projects, the state says, impacting rural communities in 74 Kansas counties.

The State of Kansas has designated 95 counties as “Rural Opportunity Zones” offering one or both of the following financial incentives for new full-time residents: student loan repayment

Winfield Main Street is one of 28 Kansas Main Street programs. The town is globally renowned for its annual Walnut Valley Festival every September, featuring the International Finger Style Guitar and the National Flat Pick Guitar Championships.

Poster by Peter Lague courtesy of Walnut Valley Festival

Legends Outlets is part of the sprawling and multifaceted Village West Development in Kansas City, Kansas, one of the most successful tourist destinations in the state.

Photo courtesy of Visit KC

assistance of up to $15,000 over five years, and a 100% income tax credit. Complementing this program is the state’s Rural Housing Incentive District program designed to aid developers in building housing within rural communities by assisting in the financing of public improvements. RHID captures the incremental increase in real property taxes created by a housing development project for up to 25 years. A 2021 law expands the types of projects allowed in RHIDs and enables the renovation into residential use (including vertical construction) of buildings and structures more than 25 years old on Kansas main streets and in downtown districts.


The state’s primary tool backing destination development for major commercial, entertainment and tourism destinations is the Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) Bond program, created when Kansas in 1993 became the first U.S. state to develop such a financing program. A 2021 law signed by Gov. Kelly allowed the program to be used as a tool to recruit headquarters and major business facilities with the potential to attract sizable out-of-state visitation.

San Francisco–based Streetlight Data recently published a case study for the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit, “The Impact of STAR Bond Attractions on Kansas Tourism,” that examined 16 STAR Bond-backed attractions. As of November 2020, 12 Kansas cities had issued approximately $1.1 billion in total bonds through this program to develop 13 STAR bond districts — including 20 tourist attractions — and about $873 million in tax revenue had been used to pay off the bond debt. Streetlight found that while most of the 16 attractions lagged in reaching their visitor goals, three met or exceeded them in 2018-2019 (2020 data was not included due to the pandemic): Village West Kansas Speedway (with its associated retail area, waterpark, national training center and T-Bones Stadium); Topeka’s Heartland Motorsports Park and the Hutchinson Underground Salt Museum.

While many sites saw approximately 40,000-60,000 visitors each year, others saw millions. The Village West Legends Retail Center drew in a striking 20 million visitors in both 2018 and 2019.

Feels Like Home

f I went West, I think I would go to Kansas.”

Heeding the words of former President Abraham Lincoln, one would be remiss to overlook the serene quality of life the state has to offer.

Home to over 2.9 million residents, the state holds a 2.3% unemployment rate, ranks 13th in higher education and 7th for infrastructure. Where cost of living ranks the second lowest in the nation, a weekend getaway has the potential to turn into a permanent Midwest staycation.


Zillow estimates the average U.S. home value has risen 13.5% since 2021, at $357,589 as of October 2022. In Kansas however, a home will run you about $141,511 cheaper, at an average of $216,078.

With extra cash in the bank, residents can get out and explore a state that offers a mix of indoor and outdoor activities, shopping, arts and entertainment. When it comes time to eat, the local cuisine will make you scoff at the idea of a chain restaurant experience.

Kansas rests in the heart of the United States, its temperate climate sweeps from the state’s plains to its tallgrass prairies, temperatures in the state average winter lows of 30 degrees with summertime highs reaching 81 degrees.

The state is made up of six analogous regions. “There are similarities among the regions, but each of the six regions seem to have their own personality and culture that makes it unique and interesting to visit,” says Kansas Tourism Director Bridgette Jobe. “The word I hear most

Kansas has the perks that’ll make your visit a permanent stay. Beer taps Photo courtesy of Choose Topeka

often from first-time visitors to Kansas is ‘unexpected.’ Many have perceived Kansas as being flat or boring, and the reality is just the opposite. Kansas is full of diverse terrain and landscapes, it has vibrant and energetic cities, it is full of tranquil and laid-back settings, plus its ease of transportation and accessibility all make it a surprise as a wonderful place to be.”

To the west, Kansas calls to outdoor enthusiasts. Up north or down south, there is no shortage of activities to pull the family out of the house.

Here, acres of sprawling plains littered with prairie tallgrass brush against massive rock formations. Their structures display the unique story of the region’s history, creating a playground for exploration. Soak in the Midwest’s unique beauty from Kansas’ highest point located in the northwest region on Mount Sunflower (4,039 feet, 3,300 ft. above the state’s lowest point).

Eastern Kansas holds some of the last wild prairie land, and barbeque joints that will have you writing home to mom. The state’s most

populous cities — Wichita, Overland Park, Kansas City and Olathe — are located here, offering an array of family-friendly activities. Get a sports fix at Sporting KC or Kansas Speedway in KCK, then step out and explore art and historical museums, winding down with home-grown dining and local shopping.


For those beginning a family, or adding to the roster, Kansas provides a robust ecosystem of opportunity for residents to plant their

roots. In fact, U.S. News ranks the state 16th in opportunity based on affordability, economic opportunity and equality.

For some a 875-sq.-ft. high rise apartment accompanied by a turf green space in the city is living lux. For others, a house on an acre or more miles from bustling city life goes a long way toward replenishing the soul.

An average 19-minute commute time affords ease of travel regardless of location in the state. Small town comfort or vivacious city life can be found at a fraction of the cost compared to most of the nation. Either way, with favorable commute times there’s no need to compromise on location. It’s also a favorably short drive to drop off your student at one of the state’s leading universities, colleges or community colleges, many of which rank highly within the Midwest.

North, east, south or west, Kansas’ quality of life makes the state a special place to call home.

“I chose to live, work and raise my family in Kansas because I like its speed and the opportunities it provided my family,” says Jobe. “The cost of living in Kansas is affordable. There are ample options of places to travel to throughout the state and explore. We can live in a large urban city full of nightlife and activity, and a little while later we are exploring a state park.”

(FACING) Topeka sidewalk chess Photo courtesy Choose Topeka (LEFT) KU Football Jayhawks mascots Photo courtesy Explore Lawrence (BELOW) Fishing sunset Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism
KANSAS: THE STATE OF UNEXPECTED 93 92 KANSAS: THE STATE OF UNEXPECTED Picture Kansas PHOTO GALLERY 1. Topeka skyline Courtesy of Choose Topeka 2. Arikaree Breaks, Cheyenne County Courtesy of Kansas Tourism 3. Kansas state flower, Wild Native Sunflower Courtesy of KSU 4. Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, Atchison Courtesy of Visit KC 5. Jayhawk Theatre, Topeka Courtesy of Choose Topeka 1 4 3 2 5


Courtesy of Choose Topeka

Dole Institute of Politics, Lawrence

Courtesy of eXplore Lawrence

Wilson Lake State Park, Sylvan Grove

Courtesy of Kansas Tourism

Music at the Capitol, Topeka

Courtesy of Choose Topeka

Kansas Speedway, Kansas City

Photo by Chris Graythen courtesy of Visit KC

Museum at Prairiefire, Overland Park

Photo courtesy of Visit KC

Major League Soccer club Sporting KC, Kansas City

Courtesy of Visit KC 8. Old Cow Town, Wichita

Courtesy of Kansas Tourism

1. Downtown
1 2 3 5 4 6 7 8

1. The legendary Z-Man pulled pork sandwich, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

Courtesy of Choose Topeka

2. Kayaking on the Kaw River, Pottawatomie County Courtesy of Kansas Tourism

3. Camanche County camping

Photo by Doug Stremel courtesy of Kansas Tourism

4. Wichita State University, Wichita Courtesy of WSU


BNSF Railway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 www.bnsf.com/rail-development

City of Parsons Economic Development . . . . . . . . . . 81 www.growparsons.com

City of Russell 20-21 www.russellcity.org

Dodge City / Ford County Development Corporation . . . . . . . 15 www.dodgedev.org

EDC of Lawrence & Douglas County . . . . . . . . . . . 29 http://edclawrence.com

Emporia Regional Development Association of East Central KS . . . . . 3 www.emporiarda.org

EVERGY 28 www.evergyed.com

Franklin County Development Council . . . . . . . . . . . 61 www.fcdckansas.org

GoTopeka Economic Partnership . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 www.gotopeka.com

Great Bend Economic Development . . . . . . . . . . . 77 www.gbedinc.com

Great Plains Industrial Park 57 www.greatplainsindustrialpark.com

Kansas City Area Development Council . . . . . . . . . . . 19 www.kc.org

Kansas Department of Commerce . . . . . . . . . . . IFC-1, BC www.kansascommerce.gov

Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce . . . . . . . . . . 40-41 www.manhattan.org

Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority 55 www.mtaa-topeka.org

Overland Park Chamber of Commerce 65 www.opchamber.org

Salina Area Chamber of Commerce . . . . . . . . . . . 5 www.imaginesalina.com

Seward County Development Corporation . . . . . . . . . . 37 www.swks.org

Sherman County Economic Development . . . . . . . . . . 88 www.thetopsideofkansas.org

Wyandotte Economic Development Council 73 www.wyedc.org

1 4 2 3 4