When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and changed life as we knew it, the Kansas Department of Commerce knew business as usual wouldn’t work. The agency immediately shifted into high gear in promoting Kansas’ unparalleled strengths and making significant business announcements good for our state and its people.
The result of this dramatic push forward was a record-setting year for capital investment in 2020—more than $2.5 billion was invested by businesses in the midst of the pandemic, with nearly 14,000 jobs created or retained. And that momentum has accelerated with Kansas now on track to eclipse last year’s totals with another record-setting year in 2021.
So, what did Kansas do to stand out and appeal to so many businesses interested growth and expansion?
The impressive surge was fueled by the commitment of Governor Laura Kelly and Secretary of Commerce David Toland to help businesses of all sizes succeed. Without question, Kansas was uniquely positioned to move quickly and effectively when COVID-19 changed our way of doing business in so many ways.
Numerous Kansas strengths set the foundation for this tidal wave of success. From the state’s advantages in a central location, excellent schools, strong infrastructure and an educated workforce—along with a new, timely strategic plan for growth— Kansas has a formidable foundation for trade and commerce in our nation and world. The state was well prepared to seize the moment.
Businesses worldwide were racing to embrace a new normal, and Kansas had strategic opportunities. As a result, Governor Kelly in 2020 announced impressive Kansas-based growth plans for companies including Amazon, Merck and Co., Urban Outfitters, Schwan’s, Kubota, Bell Textron and others. So far in 2021, Kansas has added Netsmart Technologies, Hilmar Cheese, TTEC Services and many others to the list—with many more announcements in the near future.
Strategic thinking fueled these successes. In the wake of the pandemic, many companies—especially those operating overseas—sought more secure supply chains to fortify production and distribution strategies. More and more companies are discovering how Kansas fits their needs.
They know 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.
Companies at home in Kansas know buying, investing, building and processing in the state is a good business decision. By locating in Kansas, they are realizing 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.
This full-throttle quest to better position Kansas for the economies of the future was underscored by a bold initiative in the state’s new Framework for Growth—a comprehensive plan for Kansas to grow and prosper now and in the future.
The Framework for Growth sets Kansas on a course to continue punching above its weight against the competition in attracting and retaining businesses. The plan flaunts aforementioned Kansas strengths in excellent schools and superior geographical positioning that presents a distinct advantage for logistics, distribution and warehousing, and also zeroes in on its competitive advantage in key sectors—namely advanced manufacturing, corporate and professional services, aerospace, food processing and bioscience.
For example, Kansas continues to build on its sterling reputation as the best 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 a nationally-recognized drug discovery and development enterprise at the University of Kansas to the state’s historical agricultural leadership and selection as home to the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, Kansas is positioned for continued, robust bioscience growth.
This foundation for success also features strong renewable energy assets. Kansas currently ranks No. 2 in the nation for wind energy production as a share of total electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2019, wind energy surpassed coal for the first time as the largest energy source for generating electricity in Kansas. In 2020, 43 percent of electricity was generated by wind in the state. Kansas ranks fourth in the nation with more than 7,000 megawatts of operating capacity, providing competitively priced wind energy and helping corporate purchasers such as Google, T-Mobile, Target, Spirit AeroSystems and others to meet their sustainability goals.
Proof of this thoughtful, multifaceted growth plan includes a renewed emphasis on recruiting cutting-edge businesses. Kansas clearly is developing a well-earned reputation as the innovation hub of the Midwest.
Due to these significant gains in bioscience, renewable energy sources, manufacturing, distribution and other key sectors, the Department of Commerce currently is working a project pipeline that’s bursting with potential. Of course, companies considering Kansas also need to know the local workforce is equipped to accommodate their changing needs. While COVID-19 created a myriad of labor challenges, the KANSASWORKS team of workforce development experts didn’t miss a beat in transitioning to virtual platforms to connect job seekers and employers when necessary—and has produced more robust and long-lasting strategies now in place to build the workforce of the future to best serve businesses here in Kansas.
Kansas is offering the best place in the nation to do business—and the best place to live and raise a family.
The State of Kansas wants folks who grow up in the state and those from beyond its borders to recognize Kansas’ appeal. Now more than ever before, Kansas is focused on attracting new residents and keeping talented graduates. To ensure that they all have good places to call home, recent bipartisan legislative action opened aggressive paths to needed housing statewide.
Quality of life for all workers across the state—indeed, for all residents—is paramount. From impressive new plans for broadband expansion to the proliferation of Main Street programs, Kansas has placed renewed emphasis on Community Development.
Through new coalitions and partnerships, coordinated efforts statewide to keep talented students in their home communities, a robust system to ensure availability of high-demand, skilled workers and create a business-friendly ecosystem in which companies of all sizes can succeed.
Kansas is better positioned now than ever before as a destination for businesses and residents. 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.
The state motto, “Ad Astra per Aspera – To the Stars Through Difficulty” is all the more relevant today. Kansas is determined to reach new heights in business growth and higher quality of life in communities of all sizes across this great state. Kansas is shooting for the stars, and want you to join on this exciting journey.
To see all that Kansas has to offer, please go to the Kansas Department of Commerce website at kansascommerce.gov.