By Anne Cosgrove
From the September/October 2022 issue
The Sunflower State is experiencing a resurgence in business investment, workforce training and quality of life. Looking at Governor Laura Kelly’s actions since she took office in January 2019, it’s clear there’s a plan in place: “Framework Kansas for Growth.” Signed into law by Governor Kelly, this sweeping initiative affects a wide swath of the Kansas economy, from corporate investment to the workforce to social concerns like child care and housing.
Meanwhile, the state’s location and infrastructure offer significant transportation and marketing advantages for businesses. Due to a focus on building and maintaining multimodal infrastructure, it has become easier and less expensive to ship to and from Kansas.
With the workforce a priority for all industries, the state’s investments in education and workforce development help ensure qualified employees are available. Kansas is above the national average in both the percentage of high school graduates and the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher. With outstanding schools and strong industry-education partnerships, Kansas businesses have access to a workforce that is prepared to meet the needs of businesses in a highly competitive global economy.
business facilities recently spoke with Governor Kelly about the latest for businesses and citizens in Kansas.
Business facilities: In June, you announced that since 2019, Kansas has attracted more than $9 billion in new private sector investment and more than 43,500 jobs have been created or retained in the state. What is driving this activity?
Governor Kelly: In July, I announced that Kansas secured 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 that announcement, my Administration oversaw the creation of more than 49,000 new jobs and attracted $13.5 billion in new private investment, exceeding the total investment contributed by the previous two administrations combined.
Our intense focus on job creation and business investment has put Kansas on the map.
There are several reasons why we have seen tremendous success with regard to economic development. On the one hand, we have a real plan. In early 2021, I introduced a new comprehensive strategic economic development plan for the state of Kansas, the first of its kind in more than 30 years. Called the “Framework for Growth,” it pinpoints areas of strength and emerging opportunities for our state that have informed our corporate recruiting efforts ever since.
On the other hand, we know that creating a good quality of life for Kansas families and young adults is essential to fostering the skilled workforce needed to recruit and retain businesses. We continue to make historic investments in education, public safety, infrastructure, and broadband access, which has led more businesses to choose to call Kansas home.
BF: What are the target industries for Kansas? What companies have chosen the state for their business recently?
Governor Kelly: The Framework for Growth created a roadmap to promote the development of several key Kansas industries, including aviation, agriculture, biotechnology, and animal health.
Kansas’s reputation as the ‘Air Capital of the World’ was cemented in April when I announced that Wichita is now the headquarters of Bombardier US. The company is actively recruiting to immediately fill more than 180 jobs in Wichita and nearly 500 jobs in the US.
When it comes to agriculture, we are recruiting companies that will 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 on 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 as it expands to full capacity.
Our biotech industry is also growing. In April, I announced that Scorpion Biological Services will build a $650 million manufacturing facility in Manhattan and create 500 jobs. That’s in addition to the new National Biodefense and Agrodefense Facility, a biocontainment lab, soon to open in Manhattan.
Finally, Kansas is the heart of the animal health corridor, and last month Simmons Pet Food announced that they are expanding operations in both Emporia and Edgerton. Your $115 million investment will create 117 jobs, fueling growth both in those communities and in the region.
All of these industries are experiencing growth for similar reasons: Kansas’s central location, strong infrastructure, and outstanding workforce make our state the best place in the country to build, hire, and invest.
BF: The APEX Act enacted in February 2022 focuses on megaprojects for new and expanding businesses in the state. Can you provide a brief overview of the incentive?
Governor Kelly: As the largest private investment in Kansas history and one of the largest electric vehicle battery manufacturing plants of its kind in the country, Panasonic Energy’s planned De Soto facility will be transformative for our state’s economy. The project will directly create 4,000 jobs, another 4,000 will be created by local suppliers and the construction of the plant will create 16,500 construction jobs.
Winning this project has shown that Kansas has what it takes to compete on a global scale, and that our business-friendly climate is driving the technology innovation needed for a more prosperous and sustainable future.