Kansas: Broadband For All In The Sunflower State

A new State Office of Broadband Development in Kansas is working to make sure rural parts of the state can get the same high-speed service as urban centers.

By the BF Staff
From the January/February 2019 Issue

The Kansas Office of Broadband Development was created to lead a statewide effort to expand broadband coverage and capacity for all Kansans. Access to affordable, quality service is critical to advancing economic growth and competitiveness.

Kansas broadband
A new Statewide Broadband Expansion Planning Task Force is working to ensure accessibility to high-speed broadband throughout rural parts of Kansas. (Photo: cienpies

High-speed broadband services help create new jobs, attract new industries, expands markets for new and existing businesses, enables Kansans to better access educational opportunities and resources, facilitates delivery of healthcare services, and helps protect public safety.

Increased deployment of broadband services and infrastructure will improve long-term quality of life for all Kansans and will ensure our state continues to compete locally and globally.

The KS Office of Broadband Development is committed to enabling the development of a statewide digital communications infrastructure through public-private partnerships to meet the growing demand for quality broadband access in the key sectors of public safety, education, healthcare, transportation, and for all Kansans.

In 2018, then-Gov. Jeff Colyer signed HB2701 into law, establishing the Statewide Broadband Expansion Planning Task Force. The Task Force will advise and make recommendations regarding broadband issues and accessibility across Kansas.

The Task Force is working collaboratively to develop an approach that includes, but is not limited to, the development of criteria for the creation of a statewide map for defining and evaluating the broadband needs of Kansas citizens, businesses, industries, institutions and organizations.

The Task Force also is Identifying and documenting risks, issues and constraints associated with a state-wide broadband expansion project. It is developing corresponding risk mitigation and resolution strategies where appropriate, as well as identifying opportunities and potential funding sources to:

  • Expand broadband infrastructure and increase statewide access to broadband services
  • Remove barriers that may hinder deployment of broadband infrastructure or access to broadband services; and
  • Consider options for the deployment of new advanced communication technologies
  • Develop criteria for prioritizing the expansion of broadband services
  • Review existing law and rules and regulations concerning access to the public right-of-way for public utilities and make corresponding recommendations for any changes necessary to encourage broadband deployment.

The Task Force will propose future activities and documentation required to complete a statewide broadband expansion plan, including an upgradeable, functional map of the state of available broadband service, what technologies should be deployed and the methods to finance broadband expansion.


Topeka, KS is a treasure trove in the middle of the U.S. With a thriving arts district and entrepreneurial spirit, it is a hardworking city where anyone can find something to do each weekend. Topeka is a gem of a city that checks every box companies are looking for when relocating, which is why corporations including Frito-Lay, Mars Chocolate, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Home Depot, Target, and many more have chosen this city as their home.

Topeka, Kansas
Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast speaks at the dedication of the arch named in his honor. (Photo: Greater Topeka Partnership)

So why do these companies come to Topeka? Topeka is well located in the middle of the United States. It’s interstate highway and class I rail systems are reliable and easily accessible to the rest of the country. This central location makes for timely delivery throughout North America. Within one day, goods shipped by truck reach 25 percent of the U.S. population and 90 percent by day two. Along with this, it has shovel-ready land ranging from 10 to 230 acres that can be included in incentives. The cost of living and business also factors into the reason businesses choose Topeka. The cost of living in Topeka is 7.4 percent lower than the U.S. average as of 2018 and the cost of business is 15 percent less than the average. Topeka has the workforce to support companies. Within 60 miles of Topeka, there are three universities—Kansas University, Kansas State University, and Washburn University—producing over 13,500 highly educated students graduating annually. Finally, incentives draw people in. The incentives are aggressive, while supporting capital investment and jobs. With all these incentives, the reason companies choose Topeka as their home is a no-brainer.

As Topeka looks ahead, the key is strengthening what makes it great. To do so, the city has put together Momentum 2022, which is their holistic approach to economic development. One of the focus areas in this program refers to the workforce previously mentioned. The goal is to continue to develop a “talent pipeline” that connects highly educated graduates with wanting employers. To do this, Topekans have put together strategies like TogetherTopeka, a collective impact model which ensures the future workforce remains strong by looking at the education system from cradle through career.

To ensure that these highly educated individuals continually choose Topeka to be their home, the city has put a dedicated effort into improving its quality of place. They know how important the “live-work-play” environment is in attracting new residents and they are continually working to make Topeka a great place to live. Investing in new restaurants, retailers, and one-of-a-kind establishments is their way to ensure that Topeka continues to grow and change for the better. Just this year, 250,000 dollars in grants and investments have been made to attract new businesses to the downtown alone, while the local economic development board awarded $2 million to placemaking projects across the county. Along with this, they have begun to build a downtown plaza to bring more green spaces, performance areas, and activity hubs to the city.

These new business ventures will help Topeka reach another goal for the future —a more diverse economy. Incentivizing people to work on their small business ventures is good, but Topeka didn’t stop there when creating a plan to grow a diverse economy. There is also a business incubator, 712 Innovations, where people with creative ideas can get their projects off the ground. This organization gives people the office space, high tech tools and expertise to make their dreams a reality, while also enhancing the vitality of Topeka’s community and economy.

While working to create an engaging environment for their residents, Topeka has also been driving to promote a positive image of the city to people both inside and outside of it. To do this, they have consolidated their visitor and community organizations into one strong unit—the Greater Topeka Partnership—that works together to boost the efficiency and impact of everything that they do.

Finally, Topekans are continually pushing to make the city collaborative to build a strong community. Programs like iNCLUDED, the community’s business council for diversity and inclusion, along with the Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development program in the economic development organization help to promote inclusion and diversity in the community. Their goal is to get everyone in the community actively participating and listening to each other’s ideas for Topeka. Moreover, they want people to be invested in making their city a healthy, safe, and engaged one for all.

Topeka is a progressive, business-friendly city that is continuing to grow and change to create a place both people and businesses crave. This has been proven time and time again by the many businesses and people that have chosen the capital city as their home. Topekans are passionate about doing the work to make their city the best that it can be, and they want everyone around them to understand why they love Topeka so much.


One year after the company announced growth and investment plans at its Wichita, KS site, Spirit AeroSystems has announced a second significant expansion. The company plans to hire an additional 1,400 employees to support commercial and defense programs over the next few years. This growth adds to the 1,000 new jobs announced in 2017.

“The aerospace market is growing as never before, and for us that means we continue to need even more highly skilled people,” said Spirit President and CEO Tom Gentile. “Spirit’s ongoing collaboration with regional technical training institutions, along with public investments in those programs, help ensure we can fill our talent pipeline. We appreciate Gov. Jeff Colyer’s leadership supporting this latest expansion, and we look forward to working with state and local leaders to build on the success of these programs.”

The majority of open positions will continue to be in the hourly ranks, including skilled sheet-metal assembly mechanics, composite mechanics and CNC machine operators.

“Once again Spirit AeroSystems has shown why they are vitally important to the Air Capital of the World, and we are pleased to be a full partner in support of their ongoing growth,” said Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, M.D. “The aerospace industry is a key driver of our state’s economy. We remain committed to our unique and robust partnerships which set us apart from the global competition and help ensure the industry’s continued success in Kansas.”

Spirit’s 2017 announcement also included a pledge to increase capital investment. The most visible example is the company’s new 150,000-square-foot Global Digital Logistics Center, which is on schedule to open in early 2019 on the Wichita campus.

The center, which broke ground in May, will utilize a smart storage and retrieval system with racks nearly 70 feet tall. Spirit will consolidate 500,000 square feet in three logistics buildings into the new logistics center by taking advantage of vertical space. The repurposed space allows for expansion of fabrication and manufacturing support areas. This will include the creation of a Raw Material Cutting Center of Excellence that will help Spirit and regional suppliers remain globally competitive.

Spirit AeroSystems designs and builds aerostructures for both commercial and defense customers. Headquartered in Wichita, Spirit operates sites in the U.S., U.K., France and Malaysia. The company’s core products include fuselages, pylons, nacelles and wing components for the world’s premier aircraft. Spirit AeroSystems focuses on affordable, innovative composite and aluminum manufacturing solutions to support customers around the globe.

Home to one of the five great aerospace clusters in the world, Kansas is a leader in aircraft design and manufacturing of general aviation aircraft, as well as major structures for commercial aircraft. Kansas is centrally located in the heart of North America, offering excellent transportation and marketing advantages for businesses.

More than 67 percent of the world’s embedded general aviation fleet was manufactured in Kansas, where more than a quarter-million aircraft have been produced since 1919.

Based in the city of Wichita, Cessna, Beechcraft and Bombardier Learjet manufacture and assemble aircraft and aviation products. Together, these three Kansas-based general aviation manufacturers delivered 43 percent of U.S.-manufactured general aviation aircraft shipped in 2013, delivering a total of 690 aircraft.