Welcome to Kansas in 2023. But take note: It’s not the same state it was last year. And it’s not going to be the same next year as it is today.
The Sunflower State, right now, is experiencing something of a metamorphosis. Think of it no more as merely an agricultural powerhouse—though it remains just that—but as an emerging center of excellence in advanced manufacturing. True enough, the aerospace industry has helped establish the state’s bona fides in manufacturing, roots that go back to the age of wooden wing struts and canvas exteriors on biplanes.
Within the past year, however, there has been extraordinary change. Unprecedented change, in fact. Kansans, by their nature, may be entrepreneurial and willing to take calculated risks. But the calculus began changing in early 2022. That’s when the state began drawing up bold incentives that eventually hooked not a marlin, but a whale: Panasonic Energy’s $4 billion plant to produce batteries for electric vehicles. Dirt began moving last summer, and 4,000 employees are expected to be punching the clock with high-paying jobs sometime in 2025.
State incentives in that deal topped $1 billion. Again, unprecedented. Yet only a start—within months, the state had announced $381 million in incentives for EMP Shield to build a $1.9 billion computer-chip plant in Coffey County, an hour southwest of Kansas City, and $304 million in incentives as part of a $1.5 billion expansion at Wichita-based Integra Technologies.
Do the math on those three deals: $7.4 billion in high-tech industrial development. And for some perspective: The entire state General Fund spending for 2022 was $8.5 billion. Those deals, and the downstream effects of pulling in vendors with thousands of additional jobs, will help reposition the Kansas economy for years to come.
Beyond that, Kansas is poised to become a national center of excellence in life-sciences research and commercialization with the $1.5 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility coming fully on-line this year in Manhattan.
So consider these developments another cherry on top of all the factors that make Kansas a unique attraction as a place to live, to raise a family, to establish a career, to own a business, or to operate one. Or heck, just a place to visit for a weekend or one-of-a-kind vacation.
It’s a place where all the pieces come together to support and sustain an exceptional quality of life: A cost of living unmatched by all but a handful of states. Comparative bargains in real estate. Outstanding health-delivery. A solidly pro-business public sector. Refined cultural amenities with visual and performing arts. Activities for all manner of outdoor enthusiasts and weekend warriors. First-rate schools and highly regarded research universities. Scenic beauty—no, it’s not all a flat expanse of wheat stubble.
No state is without its unique issues and challenges; Kansas is no exception. But in a setting where nearly 60,000 farms remain in operation, and untold thousands of city dwellers are first-generation removed from those settings, the can-do attitude is always on display.
Why Kansas? Well, there are about 3 million people who are living there.
They can’t all be wrong.