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Posted on: September 15, 2022

Kansas Is on a Roll! Economic Development Announcements Abound for The Wheat State

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“This is an amazing time to be an economic developer in Kansas.”

So says Manhattan (Kansas) Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jason Smith, who’s spent his career doing economic development and chamber work in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Kansas’ comeback as an economic development powerhouse speaks for itself: For 2022 alone, the state has surpassed $6 billion in new economic development projects.  

“The results are hard to argue with. I’ve never seen growth like this before,” Smith said, noting the state’s impressive turnaround in just a few short years, led by the Kansas Department of Commerce. “Companies are seeing for themselves that Kansas is a great place to do business. We’ve got more opportunities in the pipeline than ever before, and we’re getting known for our strengths and the wide-ranging talent our state produces.” 

In June, Governor Laura Kelly’s office announced that Kansas has surpassed $9 billion in new private sector investment since she took office in January 2019. In that same month, it was announced Kansas won the prestigious Golden Shovel award for the second year in a row for its success in attracting high-value investment clients that produce significant numbers of new jobs. Kansas was one of only five states to get this honor in 2022.  In addition to the Golden Shovel honor, the state has also been awarded the Governor’s Cup from Site Selection Magazine (2022) and the Deal of the Year from Business Facilities (2021). The state also finished its last fiscal year with the largest surplus in recent history

The accolades are due in large part to these recent announcements of new facilities and expansions across a number of industries: 

Panasonic Energy Co. | $4 billion investment | 4,000 direct jobs | De Soto

The largest economic development project in Kansas’ history, the Panasonic Energy Electric Vehicle Battery Plant project will have a ripple effect through the state’s economy. In addition to 4,000 direct jobs, a Wichita State University economic impact study estimates the project will result in another 4,000 jobs in suppliers and community businesses and 16,500 construction jobs. This planned state-of-the-art facility will create and supply lithium-ion batteries and accelerate the future of electric vehicle innovation on a global scale. To land the massive project, the Kansas legislature enacted the bipartisan Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) act earlier this year. Kansas already has a battery manufacturing sector with seven establishments employing more than 1,300 people. Once the Panasonic plant comes online, Kansas will become an industry leader in this quickly growing sector. Read the July 2022 announcement.

Scorpion Biological Services | $650 million investment | 500 direct jobs | Manhattan

In April 2022, Scorpion Biological Services announced a planned development partnership to build a new 500,000-square-foot facility on Highway 24 east of Manhattan for large molecule and biologics manufacturing, with a particular focus on biodefense. Scorpion is a subsidiary of NightHawk Biosciences, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that develops novel biodefense assets and first-in-class therapies to modulate the immune system. Once fully operational, Manhattan’s Scorpion facility is expected to employ more than 500 people, with an average starting salary of more than $75,000 per year. The total capital investment is projected to be $650 million. Scorpion’s President David Halverson pointed to the congruence of biodefense assets in Manhattan as key to the selection of the region as the location for the new facility. Read the latest news about the project

Hilmar Cheese Company | $630 million investment | 260 direct jobs | Dodge City

First announced in 2021, the plant has now broken ground and is on target to open in early 2025. It will produce soft American cheeses like cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella, as well as whey products used in baby formula and protein powders. Located on Highway 283 one-half mile east of the Western State Bank Expo Center, the company’s expected demand for 30 million gallons of milk to operate has led to regional providers expanding their dairy head count, multiplying its economic impact. Hilmar’s flagship plant, in Hilmar, Calif., and its plant in Dalhart, Texas, employ more than 1,500 workers. Learn more at hilmarcheese.com.

 Amber Wave | $250 million investment | 60 direct jobs | Phillipsburg

America’s soon-to-be-largest wheat protein plant recently cut the ribbon on a new state-of-the-art wheat protein ingredients facility in Phillipsburg. The company has invested more than $250 million into the plant. The location puts the facility in the heart of the country with rail access to both coasts. All the wheat Amber Wave needs is grown within 100 miles of the plant. In addition to building a wheat mill and vital wheat gluten plant, the company retrofitted the existing Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy corn-based ethanol plant to produce ethanol from wheat starch. The plant will use the latest technology in wheat milling and protein extraction while creating a significantly lower carbon footprint to produce biofuels than traditional corn ethanol plants. Read more

Simmons Pet Food | $150 million investment | 177 direct jobs | Emporia and Edgerton

Simmons’ investment in its Emporia plant and Edgerton food distribution center are just the latest in a series of expansions and improvements the company has made to its Kansas facilities since it opened its plant with one production line and 250 employees in 1998. This most recent announcement is for a fourth high-speed production line, and the combined Simmons operations have grown to employ more than 1,500 team members. New jobs will pay between $25 and $30 an hour. Some construction will begin by the end of 2022, with expansion coming in stages throughout 2023. This investment is just another indicator of Kansas’ strength in animal health and its growing specialty in pet nutrition. Learn more from the Emporia Gazette

JTM Foods | $40 million investment | 140 direct jobs | Wichita

Wichita is the new home of JJ’s Snack Pieces, a popular treat available in many of the nation’s largest retailers. JTM recently broke ground in the ict21 Industrial District, a formerly blighted area that has 560,000 square feet of industrial space under construction through a development group led by Ron and Marty Cornejo. The company chose the site because of its central location in the country and its proximity to Interstate 35, further emphasizing the importance of this key corridor in the transportation of goods, services and people from north to south through the middle of the U.S. Read more.

Novacoast | 100 direct jobs | Wichita

This win builds upon Wichita’s efforts to make the city the country’s center for cybersecurity training. In July, it was announced that Novacoast would be moving its headquarters from Santa Barbara, California, to Wichita, bringing 100 new high-tech jobs to the area. Earlier this year, the company opened a 9,700-square-foot office with 40 sales, software development and cybersecurity engineering jobs in downtown Wichita. The company credits its decision in part to key recruiting relationships it’s made with McConnell Air Force Base, Wichita State University, Friends University, Butler Community College, and Envision Inc., a blind and visually impaired workforce innovation center. See recent news coverage of the company’s announcement.

See what the fuss is all about! 

Explore bringing your business to the Greater Manhattan area by contacting Jason Smith or Daryn Soldan, director of economic development for the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, at daryn@manhattan.org.

Further updates from the Kansas Department of Commerce are available at https://www.kansascommerce.gov/

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