By Kansas Department of Commerce
Forget what you thought you knew about Kansas being stuck in the middle, either geographically or economically.
Meet the new Kansas, where being smack dab in the center of the nation is a distinct advantage in a state that’s now one of the most dominant forces on the economic development landscape.
That may sound like big talk from a small state, but recent results back it up. Even as a pandemic upset the global economy, Kansas was on its way to achieving the most private-sector business investment in state history.
After Governor Laura Kelly took office in 2019, she immediately called for reinvigorating the Kansas Department of Commerce that had experienced significant budget reductions in the previous administration. The agency moved quickly, first in repairing and then supercharging economic development initiatives that have since delivered one record-breaking year after another.
Private-sector business investment soared from $1.3 billion in 2019 to $2.5 billion in 2020 and up to $3.8 billion in 2021. The meteoric rise has continued with total business investment since Governor Kelly took office surpassing $9 billion, and the creation and retention of more than 43,500 jobs—and counting.
In 2021, Kansas also recorded the most economic development investment per capita of any state in the nation, which landed the state its first Governor’s Cup. Kansas also received coveted Gold Shovels in 2020 and 2021 for excellence in attracting high-value investment projects creating a significant number of new jobs in their communities, among other national honors. The back-to-back Gold Shovels were unprecedented for the state.
Governor Kelly and Lieutenant Governor/Commerce Secretary David Toland aren’t slowing their pursuit to make Kansas even more of an economic development force. Earlier this year, the Governor signed legislation creating incentives that help Kansas compete for companies investing $1 billion or more in expansion or relocation projects, including incentives for their suppliers.
Kansas now is on track to build even more momentum by targeting these “megaprojects” in sectors aligned with the state’s Framework for Growth: advanced manufacturing; aerospace; distribution, logistics and transportation; food and agriculture; professional and technical services; and headquarters of a firm in any industry.
The foundation for all of the recent economic success can be traced to Kansas’ strategic central location, excellent schools, strong infrastructure and educated workforce.
When the recent pandemic rocked the world economy, Kansas didn’t flinch. The state was ready with strategic opportunities that fit pressing business needs. As Covid-19 dramatically changed the economic landscape, many companies—especially those operating overseas—sought more secure supply chains to fortify production and distribution strategies.
Kansas’ central location proved ideal for shoring up supply chains. If a company wants to send goods anywhere in the United States, no state is more convenient than Kansas, which is easily accessible by road, rail, air and water.
By locating in Kansas, companies have shorter lead times, higher product quality and consistency, reduced risk related to intellectual property and regulatory compliance, better responsiveness to consumer demand, and other advantages.
Without question, investing in Kansas is a smart business decision. Consider the diversity of companies that recently found Kansas ready to meet their needs. Since 2019, Governor Kelly has announced an impressive series of Kansas-based growth plans for companies such as Bombardier, Merck and Co., Urban Outfitters, Schwan’s, Kubota, Bell Textron, Netsmart Technologies, Hilmar Cheese, Bartlett Grain and many more.
Governor Kelly earlier this year also announced her administration’s biggest economic development investment to date. Scorpion Biological Services’ $650 million new biomanufacturing facility in Manhattan will create 500 high-paying jobs within the next seven years, proving once again that Kansas has what it takes to attract highly innovative, highly-technical businesses. The new Office of Innovation is fueling new efforts to recruit the kind of cutting-edge businesses that are positioning Kansas as the innovation hub of the Midwest.
The state’s blueprint for success was spurred by the aforementioned Framework for Growth, the first long-term economic development plan in more than 30 years. This timely and strategic plan showcases Kansas strengths such as superior geographical positioning that provides a distinct advantage for logistics, distribution and warehousing. It also spotlights Kansas’ competitive advantage in key sectors—namely advanced manufacturing, professional and technical services, aerospace, food and agriculture, as well as distribution, logistics and transportation.
Of course, companies considering Kansas need a local workforce ready to meet evolving business needs. During the pandemic, the KANSASWORKS team of workforce development experts effectively shifted to virtual platforms to connect job seekers and employers and has continued to blend virtual and in-person strategies to attract the biggest possible pool of potential workers. The new Kansas Apprenticeship Office also is driving results with stepped-up and meaningful apprenticeship and internship opportunities statewide.
These robust, responsive strategies are building the workforce of the future to best serve businesses of all sizes and sectors here in Kansas.
Creating a more desirable location for businesses also means making communities better and stronger for all who call Kansas home. Under the Kelly administration, community development has been a very high priority. Quality of life—access to excellent healthcare, childcare, recreation, the arts, reliable internet service, shopping and dining opportunities, for example—are being prioritized as businesses understandably want welcoming, vibrant communities for their employees to call home.
Kansas’ beauty and allure also matter when businesses come calling. Tourism is our opportunity to showcase the people and places that make Kansas a great place to live, work and play. We know that every new resident is a visitor first, and that each new business investment begins with a trip.
We’re proud of the recent, awe-inspiring results in Kansas and are pleased to usher in this new era of growth. Kansas clearly is committed to doing more. To doing it better. And, to doing it smarter.
To learn more about Kansas’ unparalleled surge in economic development, please visit the Kansas Department of Commerce website at kansascommerce.gov.
Our destination is the stars. We invite you to get on board.