One billion dollars in capital investment is a lot for a community to land in a single year. But it is even more extraordinary when it is a community with under 100,000 residents.
But that’s exactly what has happened in 2022 already for Manhattan, Kansas, the economic center of the Flint Hills and home to Kansas State University.
“It’s actually incredible to think about,” said Jason Smith, president and CEO of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. “When we began the implementation of our economic development strategy in 2019, I don’t know that any of us expected these kinds of results in such a short period of time, particularly in light of the subsequent pandemic. But the private sector and public sector have both responded in a big way to the opportunities Manhattan presents.”
The leading project announced in 2022 is the new Scorpion Biologics plant, slated to break ground by the end of the year. Scorpion Biologics plans to construct a new manufacturing site for vaccine development, investing over $650 million and hiring 500 people at an average salary of $75,000. Manhattan was selected after a 27-state search.
However, other companies such as Canopy, Cimarron Trailers and HydroGraph announced significant projects in Manhattan, joining Bev Hub, Prime Companies, Kansas Gas and Walters Morgan which have either opened or announced expansion plans in the past 12 to 18 months.
Manhattan’s economic development efforts are mirroring that of the State of Kansas, which is setting records for economic development successes. This includes the $4 billion Panasonic lithium battery manufacturing facility announced in 2022.
“We are definitely seeing activity like never before,” said Daryn Soldan, director of economic development for the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.
For its part, Kansas State University is planning $320 million in new investment including new agriculture facilities and expansion of the Edge Collaboration District with office space, hotels and athletics improvements.
President and CEO of the KSU Foundation Greg Willems said the construction project and the Edge Collaboration District serve “as a way to move beyond a geographical name and make clear our intention to become a premier industry-serving research university in the Midwest.”
“With modernized infrastructure, we are well positioned to bring meaningful economic outcomes to Manhattan, the state of Kansas, and beyond,” Willems said.
Local philanthropists Bob and Tracey Debruyn announced in 2021 plans to develop a new art museum in downtown Manhattan. Patterned after the L’Atelier des Lumieres in Paris, Manhattan’s Museum of Art and Light is scheduled to begin construction in 2022 at a price tag of $48 million. The facility will feature interactive exhibits, similar to the traveling Van Gogh exhibit that sold out venues across the U.S. in 2021 and 2022.
Another historic private development was announced in the spring. Back 9 Development announced plans to invest $50 million in a new five-story mixed use property in the heart of the community’s historic Aggieville District. The entertainment area is the oldest business district in the State of Kansas and is adjacent to Kansas State University. The facility is slated to be office and retail space and will break ground in 2022.
“I can’t think of a better place in the country right now to invest your money than Manhattan, Kansas,” Back 9 Development President TJ Vilkanskas said. “There’s just so much opportunity here.”
The building, anticipated to open in 2025, is expected to have dining and retail space on the ground floor, office space on the second through fourth floors and high-end residential on the top story.
Along with all planned investments, over 1,000 new, permanent jobs are expected to be created as a result of the projects.
The current economic boom was predicted to happen when the U.S. government selected Manhattan as the location for the new National Bio and Agro-Defense facility in 2009. That facility is now near completion and ready for occupancy by the 400 USDA employees at the forefront of stopping threats to human health, agriculture and the food supply. In fact, national publications such as The Hill cited Manhattan as the center for preventing pandemics like COVID-19 from happening in the future.
The community won that national site selection search because of the collaborative spirit between public and private entities across the Flint Hills region.
“Manhattan is the leading example of what happens when the private sector, public sector and university community come together with a unified vision,” said Jack Allston, executive director of Pottawatomie County Economic Development. “The Manhattan region is on a roll when it comes to attracting investment and jobs. Now is the time for companies to consider it as a location for their business.”