Kansas business climate reimagined

Annie Cosgrove
From the September/October 2022 issue

TonThe Sunflower State is seeing a recovery in business investment, workforce training and quality of life. Looking at Governor Laura Kelly’s actions since taking office in January 2019, it’s clear that there is a plan in place – the “Kansas Growth Framework.” This broad initiative, enacted by Governor Kelly, affects a wide range of areas of the Kansas economy, from business investment to labor to social issues such as child care and housing.

Kansas business environment
(Photo: Adobe Stock/digidreamgrafix)

At the same time, the state’s location and infrastructure provide businesses with significant transportation and marketing advantages. Shipping to and from Kansas has become easier and less expensive thanks to a focus on building and maintaining intermodal infrastructure.

With all industries putting labor first, the state’s investments in education and workforce development help ensure skilled workers are available. The percentage of Kansas high school graduates and the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher is higher than the national average. With excellent schools and great partnerships between industry and education, businesses in Kansas have access to a workforce that is ready to meet the needs of companies in a competitive global economy.

Kansas Governor Laura Kellycommercial facility Recently spoke with Governor Kelly about the latest on Kansas businesses and citizens.

Commercial facilities: In June, you announced that Kansas has attracted more than $9 billion in new investment from the private sector since 2019, and the state has created or retained more than 43,500 jobs. What drives this activity?

Governor Kelly: In July, I announced that Kansas had received the largest private sector investment in state history. Panasonic will build one of the largest electric vehicle battery facilities in the country, investing $4 billion and creating 4,000 new jobs in the process.

With this announcement, this administration has overseen the creation of more than 49,000 new jobs and brought in $13.5 billion in new private investment, more than the combined investment of the previous two administrations.

Our strong focus on job creation and business investment puts Kansas at the top of the list.

There are several reasons for our great success in economic development. On the one hand, we have a practical plan. In early 2021, I released Kansas’ new comprehensive economic development strategic plan, the first of its kind in more than 30 years. It’s called the Growth Framework, and it identifies our state’s areas of strength and emerging opportunities that have informed our corporate recruiting efforts since then.

On the other hand, we know that creating a good quality of life for families and young people in Kansas is critical to developing the skilled workforce needed to recruit and retain businesses. We continue to make historic investments in education, public safety, infrastructure and broadband access, leading more businesses to call Kansas home.

Kansas business environment
In Philipsburg, Kansas, Amber Wave leadership and state lawmakers cut the ribbon in August 2022 for what will soon be the largest wheat protein producer in North America. (Photo: Kansas Department of Commerce)

blast furnace: What are the target industries in Kansas? Which companies have recently chosen the state to do business?

Governor Kelly: The Growth Framework sets out a roadmap for the further development of several key Kansas industries, including aviation, agriculture, biotechnology and animal health.

Kansas’ reputation as the “aviation capital of the world” was cemented in April when I announced that Wichita is now home to Bombardier’s US headquarters.The company is actively hiring to immediately fill more than 180 jobs in Wichita and nearly 500 jobs across the U.S.

In agriculture, we are recruiting businesses that can keep our industry modern and innovative. In May, I announced that Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc. will build a major production facility in Dodge City, a $460 million investment that will create 247 new full-time jobs in western Kansas. In August, sustainable agriculture leader Amber Wave cut the ribbon for what will soon be the largest wheat protein production facility in North America. The company is investing more than $250 million in the facility and creating more than 60 new jobs at full capacity.

Kansas business environment
Governor Kelly announced in July that Panasonic will build one of the largest electric vehicle battery manufacturing plants in the United States (Photo: Kansas Department of Commerce)

Our biotech industry is also growing. In April, I announced that Scorpion Biological Services would build a $650 million manufacturing facility in Manhattan and create 500 jobs. This is in addition to the new National Biological and Agricultural Defense Facility, a biocontainment laboratory that is about to open in Manhattan.

Finally, Kansas is at the center of the animal health corridor, and last month Simmons Pet Food announced they were expanding their operations in Emporia and Edgerton. Their $115 million investment will create 117 jobs – driving growth in these communities and the region.

These industries have all grown for similar reasons: Kansas’ central location, strong infrastructure and great workforce make our state the best place in the nation to build, hire and invest.

blast furnace: The APEX Act, signed into law in February 2022, focuses on large-scale projects for new and expanding companies in the state. Can you briefly describe the incentives?

Governor Kelly: As the largest private investment in Kansas history and one of the largest electric vehicle battery manufacturing plants in the country, Panasonic Energy’s planned DeSoto plant will be transformative for our state’s economy. The project will create 4,000 jobs directly, another 4,000 will be created by local suppliers, while building the factory will create 16,500 construction jobs.

Winning this program demonstrates that Kansas has what it takes to compete on a global scale, and that our pro-business climate is driving the technological innovations needed to achieve a more prosperous and sustainable future.

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