When it comes to the critical work of economic development, the State of Kansas is well focused and moving forward with renewed vigor, expertise and determination.
The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on practically every aspect of our lives and created long-lasting challenges. The world of commerce has gone through its own enormous shakeup as a result of COVID-19 and efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
At a time when everyone is rethinking how to do business in what’s known as the “new normal,” uncertainty is undeniable – but the unprecedented situation created by the global pandemic also brings significant opportunity.
Kansas, fortunately, has had a significant head start in pursuing sweeping actions that will lead to recovery and growth ahead.
When Governor Laura Kelly took office in January 2019, she and Department of Commerce Secretary David Toland worked to rejuvenate the state’s economic development agency.
To start, Commerce revived its business recruitment team. Offices were re-established in the United States and worldwide, which signaled Kansas was open for business after years of dormancy.
This important step forward was underscored in October 2019, when Governor Kelly and Secretary Toland launched a bold initiative in the state’s new Framework for Growth, which led to the current and comprehensive plan for Kansas to grow and prosper by focusing and investing in its advantages and strengths. It had been more than three decades since the state had undertaken such a robust strategic planning process. Framework for Growth decidedly positions Kansas to effectively punch above its weight against the competition in attracting and retaining businesses.
The Framework for Growth focuses on Kansas strengths in its excellent system of higher education; competitive advantage in key sectors (namely advanced manufacturing, corporate and professional services, aerospace, food processing and bioscience); and superior geographical positioning offering a distinct advantage for logistics, distribution and warehousing.
The Framework for Growth plan to accelerate growth centers on winning the talent war, building an innovation ecosystem, investing in quality of life and improving competitiveness through robust economic development tools.
This comprehensive and thoughtful approach to economic growth will be all the more vital as Kansas recovers from a COVID-19 pandemic that created unprecedented difficulties for companies in the U.S. and worldwide.
As difficult as the business closings and disruptions were, important and encouraging opportunities arose. Many companies – especially those operating overseas – want to make their supply chains more secure, which often means rethinking production and distribution strategies.
Historically, offshore manufacturing has presented international businesses with a less expensive means to mass produce products. Even though cost will always be a driver, COVID-19 taught us price cannot be the only factor in the value equation. Quality, safety of supply and reliability are equally important.
This creates significant opportunity for Kansas to present and sell our state as an ideal location to reshore and bring back jobs and investment to the state and nation. Companies should know that buying, investing, building and processing in Kansas is a good business decision. Depending on the business, by bringing this activity back to the U.S. – and to Kansas specifically – companies have realized shorter lead times, higher product quality and consistency, reduced risk related to intellectual property and regulatory compliance, better responsiveness to consumer demand and more.
The Kansas Department of Commerce’s “Reshore Kansas” initiative will continue to shape economic development projects for years to come and also play a critical role in recovery and growth efforts.
Kansas’ geographic location in the middle of the U.S. and the makeup of the state’s workforce together create a prime position to attract companies looking to shore up their supply chains. If a company’s aim is to send goods anywhere in the United States, there’s no better central location than Kansas, which is easily accessible by road, rail, air and water.
With world-class research institutions, ready infrastructure and an educated workforce – along with incentives that are remarkably efficient compared to peer states – Kansas is in a strong position to author the future of trade and commerce in our nation.
At the forefront is strength in wind energy. Kansas currently ranks No. 2 in the nation for wind energy production as a share of total electricity generation, according to the American Wind Energy Association annual market report. In 2019, wind energy surpassed coal for the first time as the largest energy source for generating electricity in Kansas, with 41 percent of electricity generated by wind in the state. With more than 6,000 megawatts of operating capacity, Kansas ranks fourth in the nation, providing competitively priced wind energy and helping corporate purchasers such as Google, T-Mobile, Target, Kohler and others to meet their sustainability goals.
The state continues to build on its stellar reputation as a place for animal health with the single largest concentration of animal health interests in the world. The region is home to more than 300 animal health companies, accounting for 56 percent of total worldwide animal health, diagnostics and pet food sales. From the nationally recognized drug discovery and development enterprise at the University of Kansas and Kansas companies, to the state’s historical agricultural leadership and selection as home to the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility on the Kansas State University campus, Kansas is ripe for bioscience growth.
Such strengths are part of a larger trend of Kansas being well prepared for the future. The momentum has the state primed to be a national leader in manufacturing, bioscience, renewable energy, distribution and other key sectors.
Kansas is better positioned as a destination now than ever before. The state’s natural advantages, coupled with the spirit of hard work and innovation engrained in its people, are driving Kansas to the forefront of economic growth. Kansas’ motto, “Ad Astra Per Aspera” – to the stars through difficulties – has never been truer, as the state powers past challenging times more determined than ever to help foster a wide range of business successes.
To see all that Kansas has to offer, please go to the Kansas Department of Commerce website at kansascommerce.gov.