BUSINESS REPORT: Kansas – Agricultural Biotechnology Research Is Growing In Kansas

This facility in Overland Park, KS will remain the home to the primary administrative offices for Staples Promotional Products.

By Shana Daley
From the July/August 2013 issue

The Kansas Department of Commerce and the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA) have announced that SynTech Research Laboratory Services will open its new contract research organization headquarters in Stillwell and bring 89 new jobs to the state over the next five years.

“The state of Kansas has provided us a great business environment and opportunity to grow our business in the field of research and development in agricultural sciences,” said Khosro Khodayari, owner of SynTech Research Laboratory Services. “We are very pleased to start building our global headquarters in Kansas, which is the heartland of agriculture.”

“We are very excited that SynTech chose to open its doors in Kansas,” said Duane Cantrell, KBA president and CEO. “Their arrival adds significant capabilities to the contract research organizations already in Kansas, promises to bring important agricultural testing services to the region and adds nearly 100 high-paying jobs to the state.”

“It’s terrific to have SynTech Research locating a facility in the state,” Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said. “Agriculture and biotechnology are vital to the Kansas economy. Now we have another great company to contribute to job creation and economic expansion in those critical sectors.”

SynTech Research provides research services for the agricultural, biotechnology and food industries. The company anticipates capital investment levels exceeding $3.7 million.


A U.S. Senate committee has endorsed spending $404 million in the next fiscal year to construct a new federal research lab at Kansas State University (KSU). The action by the Senate Appropriations Committee sends the spending request for the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF to the full Senate for passage. The House has already approved $404 million for the project, part of the Department of Homeland Security’s budget for 2014.

Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, both Republicans, announced the funding decision. The $1.25-billion lab will research deadly animal and livestock diseases, replacing an aging facility at Plum Island, NY. The state of Kansas is matching the federal funding by authorizing $305 million in bonds, as well as $35 million from the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

Earlier this year, Sen. Roberts said construction on the NBAF would start without delay after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved a transfer agreement with Kansas for a 46-acre site north of KSU in Manhattan, KS.

The NBAF facility has been stalled amid federal financing difficulties, but the land transfer appears to signal new traction in Washington to get the NBAF project moving.

NBAF has been touted locally as a huge development in the Animal Health Corridor, a string of scientific developments that starts in Manhattan, includes animal health-related companies in Kansas City and extends eastward to Columbia, MO.

“This marks a big day for the state of Kansas as the land transfer is now complete,” Roberts said in a written statement. “I spoke with [DHS] Secretary Napolitano, and she made clear construction of the Central Utilities Plant should be under way without further delay. I look forward to planning a groundbreaking in 2013.”

Kansas has provided a $105 million match, with an additional $35 million in research financing. It’s expected to have a $3.5 billion economic benefit during the first 20 years of operation.

Moran says because the House and Senate have approved the same amount of funding, the proposal likely would not be changed in any eventual negotiations between the chambers.


Kasa Companies Inc. has announced plans to expand and automate the company’s paint line at Kasa Fab in Salina, KS. The company will make a $700,000 capital investment in its facility plans to add 13 new jobs over the next 10 years.

“The additional equipment allows us to increase our capacity by at least 40 percent,” said Brad Strathe, president and chief financial officer of Kasa Companies. “The automated paint line will be a showcase for lean finishing. Lean’s basic principles in manufacturing are to reduce waste and increase value to the customer. Compared to other automated paint systems, this system is definitely a game changer with its long-term value, flexibility and overall return on asset value.”

An automated five-stage wash and powder coating system will increase part throughput, provide energy cost savings and decrease chemical usage. In addition to the paint line, Kasa Fab is adding high definition automated plasma to its existing laser cutting capabilities, allowing thicker materials to be cut more cost effectively.

“It’s wonderful to see a Kansas manufacturer achieve the success that Kasa Fab has found in Salina,” Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said. “I’m excited to see the company growing, investing and hiring more Kansans. That’s great news for Kasa Fab and great news for our economy.”


The Kansas Department of Commerce, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition have announced that Starwood will open a new Customer Contact Center in Wichita in late 2013. The new center’s associates will help Starwood guests book reservations and provide Starwood Preferred Guest member services.

“Taking care of our guests starts before our guests walk through our property doors, while they are with us and extends after they’ve departed,” said Mark Vondrasek, senior vice president of distribution, loyalty and partnership marketing for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “With our guests’ needs in mind, we look for associates who are dedicated and customer-service oriented with a desire to contribute to their communities. After reviewing a number of options, Wichita was chosen as the best place to expand our North American customer service operations.”

“Starwood Hotels & Resorts is an industry leader with an innovative approach to hospitality, and I’m excited that they have chosen to expand in Kansas,” said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. “It’s great for our business environment when companies such as Starwood create jobs, invest in Kansas and contribute to our state’s economic growth.”

The center’s inaugural class will include approximately 180 positions. Starwood plans to expand the center significantly over the next five years and hire up to 750 more employees in Wichita for a total of more than 900 new jobs. Starwood also anticipates nearly $5 million in capital investment at the new center.

“Starwood is a great company and will be a great addition to our community,” said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. “We are excited to welcome them and their sought-after jobs to Wichita.”

Sedgwick County Chairman Jim Skelton said, “This is great news for Sedgwick County and our residents because a well-known and well-respected company has chosen to invest and locate its newest center here. Starwood’s choice and investment here means more opportunities for jobs.”


Hostess Brands LLC, a new company and employer under new ownership, announced plans to reopen and expand its bakery in Emporia, KS.

The company will initially add 250 jobs in Emporia and plans to create a total of more than 300 jobs in the community within the next several years. The baking facility will resume operations this summer and will produce a full assortment of Hostess’ snack products.

“I am delighted with the progress we have made upgrading the Emporia facility since we acquired Hostess,” said Dean Metropoulos, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hostess. “We have expanded the bakery’s capacity significantly, which will result in meaningful job growth in the Emporia community and ultimately help us achieve our goal of bringing Hostess products back to the shelves for our customers as quickly as possible. The state of Kansas and city of Emporia have been extremely helpful throughout the redevelopment process, and we want to thank them for their assistance with this project in particular and for their long-standing support of Hostess.”

“I am thrilled that the re-launch of the Emporia factory will result in the creation of hundreds of jobs,” said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. “Kansas has created an attractive business environment that helps companies invest in the state and hire a significant number of Kansas workers.”


The Kansas Department of Commerce has announced that Assured Vehicle Protection Inc., which organizes and manages dealer-owned reinsurance companies, will relocate to Overland Park, KS. At its new facility, the company plans to add 13 new full-time jobs.

“We are very excited about our new location in Overland Park,” said Mike McKenny, president of Assured Vehicle Protection. “Kansas has the business environment that will allow us to continue to be a successful company. The assistance the Kansas Department of Commerce offered our company was a major factor in our decision.”

Assured Vehicle Protection will relocate to 6300 Glenwood, Suite 200. In addition to the jobs created, the company anticipates a capital investment of $656,000 associated with the move.

“AVP and its owners are true entrepreneurs within the automotive reinsurance industry,” said Beth Johnson, senior vice president of economic development at the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce. “We are pleased they have chosen Overland Park to continue growing their business.”

“It’s great that Assured Vehicle Protection has decided to move to the state,” said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. “When companies invest in Kansas and contribute to our job growth, it benefits our economy and all Kansans.”

The Kansas Department of Commerce also announced recently that Staples will keep its main office for Staples Promotional Products in Overland Park. The company plans to add up to several dozen jobs at the office over the next five years.

Overland Park will remain the location for the primary administrative offices for Staples Promotional Products, the largest promotional product distributor in North America and a business division of Staples Advantage. Between its Staples Promotional Products and Staples Advantage offices, the company employs hundreds in Kansas and anticipates several million in capital investment in Overland Park over the next five years.

“We are pleased that Staples, a leading Fortune 500 company, will continue to grow its Promotional Products division headquarters here in Overland Park,” stated Beth Johnson, senior vice president of economic development for the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council.