From Kansas - The State Of Unexpected

Meet the Leader Who Carries The Kansas Banner Globally

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly told plenty of corporate leaders in Germany recently that the Sunflower State is wide open for business.
Photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Commerce


state does not win back-to-back Governor’s Cup awards from Site Selection magazine overnight. Competing at the highest level of economic development requires years of patience and groundwork involving legislation, trade missions, marketing and good old-fashioned shoe leather.

No one understands this better than Kansas Governor Laura Kelly. When she picked up those two silver trophies from Site Selection, honoring Kansas for besting every other state in the nation in projects won per capita, she was collecting the rewards from many years of hard work and thoughtful planning by a lot of folks in the Sunflower State.

In the following interview, Governor Kelly outlines her approach to economic development and trade and sheds further light on her plans for the future.

You recently went on a trade mission to Germany along with a delegation from the Kansas City area. What did you learn while you were there, and how will Kansas benefit from this mission?

GOV. KELLY: It was exciting to visit Germany and share our strengths when it comes to locating and growing a business in Kansas. It truly is a great time to invest in our state as we experience historic economic development and job growth. 

I found that companies in Germany know that logistically, Kansas is an ideal place to get products to market quickly and efficiently. Kansas is in the center of the United States, and Kansas City is the nation’s most centrally located major metropolitan area — with 55 million people within a day’s drive, and both coasts within a three-hour flight.

I learned more about our fruitful relationship with Germany, a longstanding leader in international job growth in our state and one of our top three source countries for foreign direct investment. As of last year, Germany is our sixth-largest export market for goods produced in Kansas, with exports totaling $529 million.

Several German companies have chosen Kansas. For example, Millipore Sigma, the American life science business of Merck KGaA, brought a $25 million expansion to Lenexa; Reifenhauser opened a new $20 million manufacturing plant in Maize to produce plastics manufacturing equipment and technology; and Deutsche Telekom is well established on T-Mobile’s campus, which employs thousands of people in the Kansas City area.

While in Germany, I had the opportunity to help grow our relationship with German businesses as part of the “Why KC” business recruitment program. Our Department of Commerce is setting up a team in Germany to represent Kansas and engage with German companies interested has established a presence in the United States.

What are the biggest challenges facing rural communities in Kansas, and what are some measures your administration is taking to address them?

GOV. KELLY: Knowing our rural residents often weren’t being heard, we created the Office of Rural Prosperity (ORP) in 2019 to give rural Kansans a voice. During statewide ORP listening sessions, access to affordable housing and childcare were among the significant challenges rural Kansans cited. 



Main street in Marysville.

Photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Commerce


Information gathered during the listening sessions is leading to new programs and services to better support rural Kansas, such as the new Rural by Choice Champions program. Funding for Rural Champions supports specific projects identified by local residents, ranging from housing incentive programs to support for childcare providers, worker training and beautification programs. The program will drive success in rural communities that until now did not have the essential resources to complete these critical projects.

Healthcare is another top focus. With rural hospitals struggling, we are pushing for Medicaid expansion to bring more money to hospitals to pay their bills, hire doctors and nurses, keep healthcare affordable and accessible, and foster economic growth.

What’s been your biggest economic development success as Governor of Kansas?

GOV. KELLY: Kansas is experiencing record-setting private-sector investment and outstanding job growth. More than $18 billion has been invested in Kansas since we took office, with more than 65,000 jobs created or retained. Our impressive surge led to back-to-back Governor’s Cup Awards (Kansas had never earned a Governor’s Cup before) and a Gold Shovel Award three-peat, also a first for Kansas. We’re proud to see Kansas become a model among states for sensible, effective efforts to drive pragmatic, long-lasting economic growth.  

One key initiative to help supercharge our economic success came in the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) Act, which I signed into law in 2022. The law addresses the unique needs of for-profit companies within targeted industry sectors that invest $1 billion or more to expand their operations or to relocate their headquarters anywhere in our great state. Kansas has since attracted two blockbuster APEX projects: First was a $4 billion, 4,000-job facility in De Soto from Panasonic Energy, the global leader in electric vehicle (EV) battery production. 

The project will transform the Kansas economy, providing high-quality, high-tech jobs while also bringing a new industry to the state with an additional 4,000 indirect jobs for suppliers and other related businesses. 




Groundbreaking and rendering of the new Panasonic EV battery manufacturing plant in De Soto.

Photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Commerce


The Panasonic announcement was followed by Kansas-based Integra Technologies, a provider of outsourced testing and packaging services to the semiconductor industry, announcing a $1.8 billion investment with nearly 2,000 new jobs — that’s more high-tech opportunities that will strengthen our economy.  

What have you learned about Kansans during your time as Governor?

GOV. KELLY: Kansans want strong public schools, economic growth and balanced budgets. They appreciate sensible, Kansas-specific strategies to grow and sustain their communities, with strong schools, access to healthcare and economic growth that builds a strong foundation for the future.  

Kansans are responsible and embrace common sense in their own lives, so naturally they expect the same of their elected officials in civil and bipartisan cooperation and problem-solving.

What do you want your legacy to be once your tenure as Governor has concluded?

GOV. KELLY: I believe my legacy will be in our thoughtful approach to putting Kansas back on the path to prosperity. From day one, my goal has been to make Kansas the best place in the nation to live, work and raise a family. I’ve emphasized fiscal responsibility, strong schools, affordable healthcare and strategic economic growth. 

We have put Kansas back on track. After years of budget shortfalls before we took office, we now have money in the bank and robust, record-setting economic growth. We restored state services crippled by the reckless tax policies of the previous administration. We even attracted historic private investment during the pandemic because we were strategic in selling our state’s strengths.  

I expect my legacy to be one of governing in a bipartisan manner, which moved our state forward in the face of unprecedented challenges. By working from the middle, we will continue to get things done with this common-sense approach.  

What do you plan to do in your career following your term as Governor?

GOV. KELLY: I plan to be as involved as possible in continued efforts to make Kansas an even better place to do business and raise a family. I’m also looking forward to dedicating more of my time to being a grandmother. 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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