Green Dot Bioplastics, headquartered in Emporia, Kansas with a manufacturing location in the Greater Manhattan region, has become an industry leader in developing and manufacturing compostable biopolymers (plastics made from plants) and biocomposites (blends of traditional plastics and natural-based fillers). The company, which took root in 2011, is led by CEO Mark Remmert, a former executive at Dow Inc., who saw an opportunity to transfer his expertise in petrochemical engineering into a more sustainable sector of the industry.
“While I think plastics have brought a lot of things to humankind — safety, convenience, accessibility — they have some negative effects on the environment — using fossil fuels, increasing carbon footprints, contributing to landfills,” Remmert said. “I had an opportunity to take what I had learned in traditional plastics and apply that to bioplastics, which can contribute the same benefits in a more environmentally conscious way.”
When Remmert wrapped up his globetrotting career with Dow, he wanted to return to his home state of Kansas. Professional opportunity aligned with his personal aspirations, and a confluence of factors led him to found Green Dot in the process.
“My return to Kansas was purely personal,” Remmert said. “Coincidentally, I met investors in New York who were interested in bioplastics; I connected with the Kansas Bioscience Authority; and the third leg of the stool was the Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg State University. The program there is a shining star in Kansas. They have a best-in-class knowledge of bioplastic materials.”
Those resources led Remmert to secure backing for Green Dot. The company started by focusing on research and development before delving into manufacturing and has continued to evolve. Its expansion has included a growing lineup of products and services, along with additional facilities to accommodate that growth. The company now has three locations in Kansas, each with a different focus — the company headquarters in Emporia, a product development lab in Ottawa and a manufacturing plant in Onaga, which is in Pottawatomie County, near Manhattan.
“We have chosen to stay in Kansas for several different reasons,” Remmert said. “One is the collective support from communities and the State of Kansas, dating back to the very early days of Green Dot. The Kansas Department of Commerce was very supportive and gave us a lot of help as we were bringing investors to Kansas. We got a lot of support from the Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg State University, as well as collaboration opportunities with Kansas State University.”
With this governmental and research support, as well as existing industry assets in Kansas, expanding locally made sense. Kansas is home to plastics processors in McPherson, large processors in Kansas City and various centers with machining expertise.
“There’s a lot of talent in the state,” Remmert said. “Plus, the logistics here are really good.”
While Onaga is rural, it has ready access to Interstate 70, is not too far from Interstate 35 and has “exceptionally good” rail lines, according to Remmert. This interior shipping infrastructure makes it possible to distribute and export products relatively quickly.
During its expansion to Onaga, Green Dot was able to take advantage of two statewide programs designed to boost growth: Promoting Employment Across Kansas, a business incentive with payroll withholding tax benefits, and the High Performance Incentive Program, a collection of tax exemptions and credits for qualifying companies paying above-average wages.
Remmert’s main concern as Green Dot ramped up was recruiting specialized talent. Kansas has a different vibe from bustling metros that often attract prospective employees and Remmert worried young talent might not value the amenities of the rural area. Luckily, he needn’t have worried.
Amanda Childress is one of many bright stars Green Dot attracted to the region. With a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Childress found a great fit at Green Dot, where she has grown professionally to her current role as the engineering and operations manager at the Onaga facility.
“I couldn’t be happier to be in a place like this,” she said. “Not just with the location, but the company has provided a lot of opportunities for me — opportunities that I wouldn’t have had at a larger corporation. I’ve been able to learn, grow and lead a lot as we continue to grow. It’s really an exciting company to work for.”
Childress serves on the Onaga City Council and supports economic development efforts in Pottawatomie County. Her sense of civic engagement is something Remmert encourages.
“For me, that’s part of what companies should do — contribute to communities beyond a paycheck,” Remmert said. “Nearby Wamego is a fabulous community and many young people are taking leadership positions there and being very active. We feel good we’ve been able to bring jobs to rural America and these young families are making an impact.”
Similarly, the region supports the growth driven by companies like Green Dot. The Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation recognized the business with an award for Economic Development Project of the Year in 2022. Unlike trying to navigate corporate expansion in a large city, Green Dot has found the local agencies to be responsive and receptive to their growing business.
“The City of Onaga has been tremendously helpful to us,” Remmert said. “It’s phenomenal. The communities and the government, all the different councils, they bend over backwards to help companies.”
Just as Green Dot’s mission is to contribute on a global level, its employees are engaged on a local level. While the company continues to innovate and expand its offerings, it’s bringing growth to Kansas and improving sustainability in the plastics industry worldwide. Being good neighbors and corporate citizens is just one more aspect of their added value in the region.
To learn more about Green Dot, visit their website.
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