Magazine Archives

Topeka, Kansas

QUALITY COUNTS Topeka is the capital city of Kansas and the county seat of Shawnee County. It has a population of 123,446 (Shawnee’s population is 174,709) and consistently ranks eight to ten percent below the national average for cost of living, making for a comfortable quality of life. The City shows active pride and investment in healthcare, education and community development, turning out a highly educated workforce. The Topeka Public School District earned the U.S. Department of Education National Schools of Excellence Award and approximately 85 percent of Shawnee county residents age 25 and older are high school graduates or have completed an equivalency, with 36 percent of residents holding a bachelors or higher. Two nationally acclaimed research universities (University of Kansas and Kansas State University) are adjacent to the community and Topeka’s own Washburn University is top 10-rated in the Midwest. The City has a lively performing arts scene, recreation facilities for nature lovers, as well as activities and attractions for every taste. Topeka, Not Business as Usual With the cost of doing business and energy costs lower than the national average, Topeka is headquarters to national and international companies that include Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. and Security Benefit. The City encourages new direction and growth and offers solutions to help business with customer retention, development of a more efficient supply chain and finding new profit opportunities. Topeka’s target industries include heavy manufacturing, distribution and warehousing, animal sciences and food processing. Emerging targets include robotics manufacturing and data centers. Topeka encourages a return on investment by offering state and local incentives for conducting business in the City: • Free land and cash based on the quality of jobs created • Machinery and equipment exemption from personal property taxes • Funding for bioscience • State and Local taxes that are 11 percent lower than the national average • Office rentals 26 percent lower than national average • NaviGate, to help maximize resources, assess entrepreneurs’ needs and standardize progress with partner organizations The Central Park Connection Topeka has a central location with prime highway and rail transportation networks (BNSF and Union Pacific). It is within one hour of Kansas City International airport and Topeka’s own Forbes Field airport offers admission to a Foreign Trade Zone and direct access to two runways (12,800′ and 7,000′). The City provides close proximity to intermodal facilities, telecommunications services and high speed Internet, ranking with New York City and San Francisco for fiber optic cable per square mile. Topeka capitalized on its location with the 500-acre […]

A Golden Corridor of Innovation

Industry-specific clusters are thriving along I-90 in northern Illinois due to close collaboration and proximity. One of the most successful industry-specific manufacturing hubs in the United States is located in an area known as the Golden Corridor, which stretches along I-90 in northern Illinois. In 2009, business and financial services employed 31,758 in the Golden Corridor; information technology and telecommunications, 17,185; biomedical and biotech, 12,009; defense and security, 10,191; advanced materials manufacturing, 7,320; and computer and electronics manufacturing, 4,186. A burgeoning cluster of precision machine tool producers and their suppliers has taken root in the Corridor, centered on several locations—Schaumburg, Elgin, Rolling Meadows, and Hoffman Estates. Among the major precision tool makers to establish operations in the Golden Corridor are industry giants Mori Seiki, FANUC Robotics, Amada, BIG Kaiser and Mazak Optonics. Amada decided to place its Amada Solution Center in Schaumburg because it was impressed with the Golden Corridor’s reputation for fostering an environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, key factors in attracting highly skilled workers, a company spokesman said. The 133,000-square-foot Solution Center, the design of which was inspired by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, provides access to technological expertise and research, real-time demonstrations of metal fabrication systems, and advanced training and development to companies throughout North America. Amada America Inc. produces sheet metal fabrication equipment, including CNC turret punch presses, laser-cutting systems, press brakes, robotic bending systems, flexible manufacturing systems and software. According to several toolmakers, close proximity to suppliers and access to a huge market also were major attractions for locating within the Golden Corridor. “They all work together on various aspects of toolmaking. One may make a material holder while another performs a lathe process or another supplies the robotics to implement the cutting of the tool,” explains Gary Skoog, Hoffman Estates economic development manager. Elgin, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg and Rolling Meadows currently are spearheading an effort to create the Golden Corridor Innovation and Science Park. Unlike a traditional science and technology business park, this entity is planned as more of a “virtual” park that will enable companies to network with each other to promote innovation. Such a network—using International Association of Science Parks guidelines–would facilitate communications and collaboration regarding supply chain management, cooperative outsourcing, and available labor pool, among other issues. Formative plans for the Innovation and Science Park envision a “three-legged stool:” the first leg is the network; the second leg consists of institutions of higher education in the area, many of whom have licenses for patented processes, are growing entrepreneurship programs, and […]

Ohio Corporate Moves

V&M Star Expands in Youngstown V&M Star is investing $650 million in an expansion of its Youngstown, OH facility that is projected to create more than 350 new full-time jobs, and retain more than 400 jobs. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher lauded the announcement at a press conference in Youngstown. V&M Star, a leading producer of seamless oil country tubular goods, line and standard pipe, coupling stock and mechanical tube headquartered in Houston, TX, confirmed that it will build a new state-of-the-art rolling mill expansion project in Youngstown in both Mahoning and Trumbull counties. The state has been working with V&M Star over the past year to make this investment possible. Gov. Strickland met with V&M officials in Youngstown to discuss the company’s plans moving forward. “We commend V&M Star and its parent company, Vallourec, for their continued commitment to grow here in Ohio, an affirmation of Ohio’s strengths in manufacturing, our dedicated workforce and the state’s extensive logistics network,” Gov. Strickland said. “We also congratulate and thank the leadership in both Trumbull and Mahoning counties for their collaborative work in meeting the goals of the company, especially Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, Girard Mayor James Melfi, and Congressman Tim Ryan for their diligent efforts and support of V&M’s continued investment in northeast Ohio.” The state of Ohio’s early commitment of $20 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for road improvements and the relocation of rail lines near the current property of the V&M Star Steel Pipe Production Facility helped significantly to make these new jobs for Ohioans possible. Ohio Gets $30 Million Grant for CSX National Gateway Gov. Ted Strickland recently announced that Ohio has been awarded $30 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants for the CSX National Gateway project. The National Gateway is an $842 million, multi-state infrastructure freight project aimed at reducing congestion on roads and highways, lowering emissions, and conserving energy. The TIGER Discretionary Grant program is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. “The National Gateway will improve the movement of freight and give Ohio even more opportunities to deliver goods to markets across our region and country,” Gov. Strickland said. A total of $98 million was awarded in TIGER grants to cover the federal portion of National Gateway clearance projects in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Ohio served as the lead sponsor of the National Gateway TIGER application. Ohio already has committed $20 million in targeted ARRA resources from the Federal Highway Administration to […]

Covering the Ground on Transportation Issues

Don’t let your project get detoured or end up on the wrong development track by ignoring the factors that make transportation a critical consideration in site selection decisions. Q As we consider locations for a new facility, we are finding that transportation issues present a lot of uncertainty in terms of our logistics strategy. How do we manage this in order to get to the best location for our project? The Expert Says: Transportation issues impact most every location decision. Transportation issues can be associated with infrastructure (availability and capacity) and with service (time and cost). And for every project, some consideration should be given to all modes of transportation—air (passenger and cargo), rail (transit and product movement), road (employee and product), and water. Other related issues such as mass transit availability, fuel tax policy, toll road presence, etc. may also be important to particular projects. In this column, we focus on road and rail transportation. If your project is one in an office environment, you are likely most concerned with road and air travel. If your project is industrial (distribution or manufacturing), then road and rail may be the most critical elements of transportation. Many industrial clients are now favoring locations with good access to all modes. There are a number of trends that should drive you to consider all modes of transportation, including quality of rail access, competition, and dynamic global supply chains, all of which will impact your transportation costs. In assessing rail service at your site, do not assume that because there is a rail line along side your property that it is rail served. You should receive direct confirmation of service, and any limitations to service, from the rail carrier. If the site can be served, do not assume that you can do your operational run around using the carrier’s tracks—restrictions on these activities are common, implying that your site plan needs to accommodate all rail movement on-site. This in turn may impact site size, layout, product and people flow, etc. Rail competition can be difficult to find and manage. While truck and rail directly compete more often than they did in the past, most rail oriented operations find advantages in using rail services. You may consider multiple locations each with different carriers, but ultimately you will likely wind up on a site that offers a single provider of rail service. First, see if the owner of the line shares trackage rights with other carriers enabling other carriers to bid for your business. Second, you […]

Calling for Growth

Sectors of the call center industry did more than show surprising resilience in the downturn—they actually thrived and added job growth across the economy. As with many of the industrial sectors in the U.S. today, economic news about the call center/IT/data center industry is a mixed bag in terms of growth. The good news is that according to the National Association of Call Centers (NACC), which tracks the call center industry globally, more call center jobs were gained in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2009 than lost. This news also was bolstered by the fact that it was a part of a three-quarter-long recovery. The bad news was that the number of call center openings versus closings was down. According to the NACC, the largest growth in call center jobs came from the Financial Services Sector. King White, president of Site Selection Group, a location consulting firm that focuses on call center and back office site selection globally, reported in July, 2009 that unlike other sectors of the economy, certain sectors of the call center labor market were flourishing; what’s driving them is a demand for business process outsourcing (BPO) and accounts receivable management (ARM) services. “This [was] probably the strongest month we’ve had in 12 to 18 months,” White said of the jump in June. “We had huge numbers, 20,000 total jobs created, which is what it was during the peak of the economy two years ago.” According to Site Selection Group’s research, 20,485 new jobs were created in the industry worldwide with 56% of those jobs located in the U.S., and the BPO industry led the way with 15,560 jobs. The financial services industry and debt collection services industry also added jobs at this time. The economic downturn also shifted the way call center site selection has been occurring. Many large corporations laid off employees and closed divisions such as customer service, financing and collections, preferring to outsource these functions instead. However all of these functions still must be performed for customers. This is what’s provided the growth in BPO and ARM call centers, according to Susan Arledge, president/CEO of Arledge Partners Real Estate Group. It creates a specific necessity for “plug and play” properties where companies can be operational quickly without a large capital outlay. Arledge says her company tracks several million square feet of these types of locations. “There are many former contact center properties that had been operational or had been built but never occupied when corporate plans changed or client contracts fell […]

60 Seconds with Mark Peterson, President, Greater Rochester Enterprise

60 Seconds with Mark Peterson, President, Greater Rochester Enterprise

The state government and legislature in New York is preparing to end the Empire Zone incentives program in July and replace it with a more cost-effective program that has stringent job-creation requirements. We asked Greater Rochester Enterprise President Mark Peterson for his thoughts on this controversial move, and invited him to comment on proposals to have Empire Zone incentives convert from loans to grants if recipients are able to meet specified job targets. BF: Has the Empire Zone incentives program been effective as a job-creation tool in New York State? Can you tell us how many jobs have been created with the assistance of the program? MP: The Empire Zone incentives program has been effective at creating jobs in New York State. Since its inception in 2000, it has certified more than 8,000 businesses that employ more than 350,000 people. However, companies who have been helped by the Empire Zone program need to do a better job of meeting their investment goals. BF: Do you think the program should be replaced? MP: I don’t have any reservations to doing away with Empire Zones, as long as it’s replaced with a program that allows us to be competitive. The devil is in the details of providing incentives to companies wishing to expand or move here. For example, tax credits are fine provided they can be monetized over time so a company can take advantage of the full financial benefit through either utilization or by receiving a refund. BF: What would be the economic impact on your region if current plans to replace the Empire Zone program are enacted in July? Do you think the changes may have a negative effect? MP: The economic impact on the Greater Rochester Region will be positive as long as the Empire Zone is replaced with an affordable, sustainable program that makes it worthwhile for businesses to expand or relocate here. BF: How would you like to see the state incentives program adjusted, or do you think it should remain identical to the current structure? MP: I would like to see it adjusted. Most companies are challenged with what they can do at the front end, because there is usually capital expenditure going on to build a new plant. One way the state could help companies deal with those challenges —and create jobs—would be to offer loans. The loans would turn into grants under the right circumstances. If you make your job target, we’ll convert the loan to a grant. If not, the state would demand […]

Grow Your Own

From the Desk of the Editor in Chief Every year, we take a high-level tour of the most important developments in the burgeoning biotechnology sector. For this year’s round-up, we set our sights a bit lower, because the most exciting activity literally is taking place at ground level. The buzzword is bioenergy, and it seems like everyone is rushing to transform their favorite local staples—and some not-so-favorite pests like algae—into production-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities. Next-generation biofuels have been ripped out of research papers and pilot incubators and ramped up at warp speed. Everything from sorghum to pond scum to the fat your grandma used to skim off her chicken soup is being converted into jet fuel, lubricants, adhesives and even cosmetics and candles. The major oil companies have taken note and are investing heavily in commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plants, many located near feedstocks that were written off as marshland not suitable for development. The biotech revolution has met the renewable energy revolution head on, and it’s coming soon to a fuel depot near you. Developments are unfolding rapidly. We encourage you to keep a close eye on the Breaking News section of our Web site,, after you digest this month’s cover feature. We invite you to fill up your tank and enjoy the ride. And don’t throw away those lawn clippings this summer. They may come in handy.