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Better Than Most, Garmin Knows Location

   Another shining star in Olathe is Garmin Ltd., an international designer, manufacturer, and marketer of navigation and communications equipment for the aviation and consumer markets. That means GPS systems in everything from autopilots to mobile phones. The company has operated since its 1989 founding through subsidiaries in Olathe, the U.K., Salem, Ore., and Taiwan, all conveniently described for customers by their GPS coordinates. Garmin showed second-quarter 2005 revenue growth of 39 percent, and its founder, Min Kao, was recently identified by Forbes as No. 235 among the richest U.S. citizens. Earlier this year, the company looked over its backyard fence and signed an agreement with Overland Park-based company Sprint Nextel to bring navigation to Sprint mobile phones.
   While the last building projects took place a couple of years ago, the hiring has been taking place in a steady stream at Garmin. A mid-October glance at the company's job openings list showed a wide array of positions available, with 47 of the 53 jobs in the Olathe complex. Jessica Myers, senior media relations specialist for Garmin, says the company has just over 1,000 employees in Olathe now, but is still looking to fill engineering and other technical positions.
   "In the facility we built a couple years ago, we still have room for further expansion," she says, which was all part of the plan. Also part of the plan is continuing to recruit the best engineers. Sometimes it's a an uphill climb — "Pulling engineers from either coast to Kansas can sometimes be a challenge," says Myers — but the engineer-rich culture of the region helps keep quality where it needs to be. Myers says there has been increased willingness from national recruits to consider Kansas, but it can still be a struggle when — oddly enough for GPS recruits — their familiarity with geography does not extend to what Kansas City has to offer once you get on the ground.
   "To many, unfortunately, Kansas can be a flyover state," Myers says, "and they're missing lots of good things."

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