By Kansas Department of Commerce
Often known in the past as a “middle of the pack” state, Kansas is now an “alpha wolf” when it comes to economic success.
And the state is still hungry.
In July 2022, Governor Laura Kelly announced the biggest private investment in state history when Panasonic Energy chose De Soto, Kansas, for a $4 billion plant to produce new generation, high-capacity EV batteries for multiple automakers.
As one of the largest EV battery manufacturing facilities of its kind, the Panasonic plant will help power the Made in America EV revolution by employing at least 4,000 workers and creating another 4,000 jobs for regional suppliers and businesses. The once-in-a-generation opportunity also is transforming Kansas’ economy with a new industry akin to the state’s legendary aviation presence.
Key in landing Panasonic was bipartisan passage of the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) Act—an aggressive economic development tool that gives Kansas an edge over other states in meeting unique needs of companies planning $1 billion-plus megaprojects. For qualifying firms, the incentives include investment tax credits, payroll rebate awards, training and education reimbursements, sales tax exemptions and residency reimbursements. APEX offers incentives to qualifying suppliers as well. The law also triggers an additional 0.5 percent reduction in corporate income tax for all businesses in the state each time an APEX agreement is signed.
This February, Kansas landed its second APEX megaproject deal when Kansas-based Integra Technologies announced plans for a $1.8 billion semiconductor facility in the Wichita area, the second biggest private investment in state history. The one-million-square-foot plant and headquarters will create nearly 2,000 high-paying jobs and some 3,100-plus ancillary jobs as Integra produces U.S. computer chips needed to counter semiconductor supply-chain problems.
The back-to-back megaproject announcements proved Kansas’ bold commitment to emerging and innovative industries, and to diversifying the state’s economy.
Economic successes of all kinds and sizes have materialized on Main Streets and beyond across the state. In 2022 alone, Kansas landed 272 economic development projects with $7.4 billion in planned capital investment and almost 13,400 new or retained jobs. Since the start of the Kelly administration in 2019, Kansas has brought in over $15.2 billion new capital investment and created and retained over 54,600 jobs.
Kansas’ surge earned the state the Governor’s Cup for most economic development investment per capita nationwide in 2021 and 2022, and back-to-back Gold Shovel Awards in the same years.
“Kansas now is an economic powerhouse able to compete on a national and global scale,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “We aren’t slowing down in further improving our business-friendly climate, strong talent pool, solid infrastructure and innovation strategies that make Kansas the best place in the nation to do business, and the best place to live and raise a family.”
The statewide success story is built on a foundation of a skilled and educated workforce, innovation, inclusivity, strong infrastructure and strategic central location. Developers also have a growing number of high-quality, shovel-ready sites available to consider.
With stepped-up emphasis on recruiting cutting-edge businesses, the new Office of Innovation in the state’s Department of Commerce is establishing Kansas as the innovation hub of the Midwest. A new Proof of Concept program and Small Business R&D Acceleration Grant program are advancing technology toward commercialization. Growing demand for Angel Investor Tax Credits means more investment in Kansas’ next great companies.
Recent legislation also saw Kansas deliver new tax benefits for research and development; extend a Rural Opportunity Zone student loan repayment program; and establish an Aviation and Aerospace Tax Credit program.
Kansas also is fortifying its skilled manufacturing labor ranks in a state already known for its robust workforce development and talent attraction.
The new Office of Registered Apprenticeship is preparing Kansans for the modern workforce, as are partnerships with the state’s community colleges, technical training centers and universities that match degrees with employer needs to keep more graduates in the state.
“Providing enticing career opportunities for younger talent drives our economic development efforts,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “The companies and industries we are attracting will allow Kansans to earn great wages and continue enjoying a superior quality of life.”
When businesses choose Kansas, they want and deserve excellent places for their workers and families to call home. Affordable housing is a pressing need.
Commerce’s Community Development Division and Office of Rural Prosperity are addressing critical housing gaps on multiple fronts. Recent legislation included $100 million in credits over the next decade to encourage investment and accelerate development of housing options in rural parts of the state.
Community Development Block Grants are helping Kansas communities gain access to childcare, create more youth job training opportunities, and improve local libraries, sidewalks, trails and other community assets.
Offering superlative quality of life also means getting every Kansan connected to affordable, high-speed internet. Kansas is serious on that note, determined to be a top 10 state for broadband access by 2030.
The state was among the first eight approved under the American Rescue Plan Act-Capital Projects Fund for broadband infrastructure, with $83.5 million in funds headed to Kansas internet service providers to strengthen the internet infrastructure, especially in the most underserved areas.
The state’s Broadband Acceleration Grant (BAG) program awarded 11 grants to deploy high-speed broadband access across 10 counties in its second year.
BAG is part of Kansas’ Eisenhower Legacy Transportation (IKE) Program rolled out during Governor Kelly’s first term. IKE is the state’s 10-year transportation plan that addresses critical infrastructure needs with a plan for safer roads, economic growth and resources funded by significant investment in every county.
One notable project, the Turner Diagonal Interchange, recently opened 300 acres of land for economic development. Truck staging areas improved truck travel times in the area, and new pedestrian paths and sidewalks were a welcome quality-of-life improvement. The $30.3 million interchange reconfiguration in Kansas City, Kan., created 2,000 new jobs at Turner Logistics Park, and was a finalist in the 2021 America’s Transportation Awards Competition.
Another boost to Kansas’ far-ranging infrastructure initiatives came in $3.8 billion in infrastructure funding through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The Kansas Infrastructure Hub is coordinating BIL opportunities in transportation, water and sewer, energy and broadband technology for communities of all sizes in the state.
Kansans deserve the best quality of life, regardless of their zip code. Rural towns in particular have marvelous and unique assets to be leveraged, making ongoing efforts to rebuild downtowns and Main Streets a high priority. The state also partnered with the Kansas-based Patterson Family Foundation to launch Historic Economic Asset Lifeline (HEAL) grants and turn dilapidated downtown buildings into economic drivers. Another community-based highlight came in a new Mural Making program to celebrate the history, culture and unique characteristics of rural towns.
Sports wagering also recently made its debut in Kansas. Along with offering the chance to bet on favorite teams, the move ups the ante with funding to attract a professional sports team.
It’s all part of Kansas’ multipronged quest to create thriving, resilient communities, modernize economic development efforts, and seize more opportunities now and in the future in a state with unequalled allure.
In a state once overlooked, there’s a new era of innovation, inspiration and success. Don’t ask “Why Kansas?” Ask “Why not Kansas?”
For more information on doing business in Kansas – The State of Unexpected, please visit kansascommerce.gov.