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From Site Selection magazine, November 2017

An Electric Atmosphere

Low energy costs, manufacturing legacy combine to form the industrial hub of the Great Plains.

Viega LLC in McPherson is building its third large facility to grow its manufacturing business in Central Kansas.
Photo courtesy of Viega


They might want to rename Main Street in McPherson, Kansas, as Electric Avenue, because that’s exactly the atmosphere they’re creating for industrial development on the Great Plains.

With industrial electricity rates 26 percent below the U.S. average and one of the most robust plastics manufacturing clusters in the world, McPherson is bringing record-breaking economic development to this thriving county of 30,000 people on Interstate 135 in Central Kansas.

“We have one of the lowest electric rates in the nation,” says Keith Birkhead, president of the McPherson Industrial Development Company (MIDC). “We collaborate with 10 colleges and universities to provide manufacturing training. Three of these colleges, including the local community college, are in town and develop our skilled labor in manufacturing.”

The result is an expansion boom for companies in plastics, energy, equipment manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. With 10 plastics manufacturers and eight plastic industry support facilities, McPherson has 11 times more plastics companies than the U.S. average.

“When we were doing our cost calculations on where to manufacture our products, low electric utility rates proved to be a deal-maker for us in McPherson,” says Robert Boots, chief operating officer of Viega LLC, which is now building its third manufacturing facility in McPherson in the last 10 years. Upon buildout, Viega will have close to 600,000 sq. ft. for plastics/metal manufacturing on site and will employ close to 425 people.

“I cannot give the folks at the McPherson Industrial Development Company enough praise,” says Boots, whose company is an international manufacturer of plumbing and HVAC solutions. “Whenever we are ready to expand, Kasi Morales [the executive director of MIDC] comes over and makes it happen. They make it very easy to do business here.”

Viega is currently constructing an 80,000-sq.-ft. facility after previously completing work on facilities of 439,000 sq. ft. and 78,000 sq. ft. “We will finish our third building by the end of this year,” notes Boots. “Plus, we just purchased another 21 acres adjacent to our property and we will begin master planning that site in November.”

Viega is far from alone. CHS recently invested $1 billion to build a new delayed coking unit that will increase oil refining capacity from 85,000 barrels to 100,000 barrels per day in McPherson. Pfizer is in the middle of a $120-million expansion that will create 150 new pharmaceutical manufacturing jobs; and CertainTeed is expanding by 40,000 sq. ft. and adding 14 workers.

“When we were doing our cost calculations on where to manufacture our products, low electric utility rates proved to be a deal-maker for us in McPherson.”

— Robert Boots, Chief Operating Officer, Viega LLC

Central Plastics is adding 38,000 sq. ft. and 15 jobs, while McPherson Concrete is bringing more fabrication in-house, which will require the hiring of more workers.

“Due to our long-term purchase power agreement with Westar Energy we are able to offer extremely competitive rates to our customers,” says Morales. “That is a huge advantage to business. We also boast a strong workforce and great community amenities. Many global companies have large facilities in McPherson, and most are continuing to grow here.”

Birkhead says that “some of these industries have been here for over 100 years. CHS Oil Refinery is our largest electricity customer in town. Pfizer is another big user with 1,500 employees, and they are expanding again. Electrical rates have a big impact on their business.”

Birkhead cites other advantages of doing business in McPherson. The community is just 45 minutes from Wichita; plenty of skilled workers call McPherson County home; housing is a top priority for the county; and quality of life is exceptional, he notes.

“We have plenty of large sites for development around the area,” Birkhead says. “We’ve been known as the Plastics Capital of America for many years, but we are more than that. We have 55 manufacturing companies and about 4,500 manufacturing jobs. Two of those firms are Fortune 500 companies. About 26 percent of McPherson’s labor force is engaged in manufacturing. My message to corporate executives is, when it matters, think McPherson.”

Boots concurs, noting that a blue-collar workforce with a high work ethic makes it possible for Viega to thrive in McPherson. “This is a very business-friendly community that’s located in a very business-friendly state,” he adds.

Morales adds that a concerted effort to get the word out is paying off. “Funding for our GoMcPherson campaign started in 2012, and we ramped up our marketing efforts in 2015,” she says. “We had been relatively unknown outside of Kansas, but that is changing.”

An electric atmosphere will do that. 

This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the McPherson Industrial Development Company. For more information, contact Kasi Morales at or 620-245-2521. On the web, go to

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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