2020 Annual Report

2020 Annual Report Main Photo

8 Jan 2021

Annual Reports

ABOUT US The Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas (RDA) is the lead economic development organization for Lyon County and the Emporia area. It is a collaborative effort of the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, Emporia Enterprises, the City of Emporia, Lyon County, Flint Hills Technical College, Emporia State University and Emporia Main Street. The RDA is located in the Trusler Business Center with the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, 719 Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas 66801. RDA President Kent Heermann may be contacted at 620-342-1600 or kheermann@emporiarda.org. For further information go to www.emporiarda.org.

On November 7th RDA Vice-Chair Rick Tidwell lost his battle with cancer. He will be remembered for his business leadership at Valu-Net Fiber, his volunteer leadership to the RDA, as President of the Emporia Enterprises Board of Directors, and his love of family and community.

Board Members Jim Kessler, and Dan Slater have reached their term limitation on the Board of Directors. We thank them for their service.


Voting Members

Jon Geitz, City of Emporia Representative

Jim Kessler, City of Emporia Representative

Carla Barnett, At Large Representative

Jim Shepherd, Emporia Chamber of Commerce Representative

Dan Slater, Lyon County Representative

Rick Tidwell, Emporia Enterprises Representative

Jamie Sauder, Lyon County Representative

Ex-officio Members

Allison Garrett, President, Emporia State University

Marc Goodman, County Attorney, Lyon County 

Dean Hollenbeck, President, Flint Hills Technical College

Mark McAnarney, City Manager

Jeanine McKenna, President Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce 

Christina Montgomery, City Attorney, City of Emporia, 

Casey Woods, Main Street Director

Officers and RDA Staff

Jim Kessler, Chair

Rick Tidwell, Vice Chair

Jeanine McKenna, Secretary

Mark McAnarney, Treasurer

Kent Heermann, President CEcD

Robin Emley, Executive Assistant

Past RDA Board of Directors (1994 to 2020)

  • Bob Agler
  • Clark Allemang
  • Bill Barnes
  • Ken Bazil
  • Cecil Bollinger
  • Scott Briggs
  • Mike Castello
  • Bob Davis
  • Paul DeBauge
  • Larry Ek
  • Lea Firestone
  • Jon Geitz
  • Rob Gilligan
  • Robert Glennen
  • Don Hill
  • Russ Jenkins
  • Julie Johnson
  • Mike Lane
  • Bill Leffler
  • Jackie Leffler
  • Marshall Miller
  • Jim Muckenthaler
  • Kevin Nelson
  • Elvin Perkins
  • Ivan Rees
  • Earl Sauder
  • Steve Sauder
  • Kay Schallenkamp
  • Mel Scheller
  • Mike Sikes
  • Rick Tidwell
  • Ray Toso
  • Myron VanGundy
  • Bryan Whitmore
  • Pat Wiederholt


The year 2020 will be remembered as the year the COVID-19 pandemic began. There was a robust economy pre-COVID, and the local economy weathered the economic/pandemic storm better than most.

In 2020 the Return on Investment in Capital Investment was $40,000,000 primarily due to Simmons Pet Food, who continue their expansion in 2017 with the most full-time job creation of 470 jobs in the past 25 years.

From 1995 to 2020, the cumulative private sector capital investment exceeded $1,000,000,000 with 2,500 full-time jobs being created, which represents 15.6% of the total Lyon County employment and more than 2,657,000 sq. ft. of new buildings were constructed. Refer to Appendix A through E for a visual representation of that growth.

Prior to 1994, there was no development in Park III, today and throughout Emporia over 320 acres are developed. The five companies that currently have business operations in Park III are Simmons Pet Food 131 acres, Hill’s Pet Nutrition has 82 acres, Norfolk Iron & Metal has 35 acres, CAMSO has 23 acres, the Lenze property leased by CAMSO is 10 acres, and REG Emporia has 39 acres, which is an idle site.  

In today’s inventory of “pad ready” sites, which is defined as all utilities to the lot line, proper zoning, and paved access, are three lots in Park III. There are two 8 acre tracts, and one 15 acre tract. We are not able to compete on the future Simmons, Hill’s, Norfolk, and CAMSO type projects with acreage requirements of 35 to 151 acres. We are eliminating ourselves from the competition.

We have Park IV on West Highway 50, which has three lots of 100, 26, and 22 acres. They are not “pad ready” sites.

Emporia/Lyon County is at a crossroads, in order for our community to expand and attract existing and new companies we need to have sites. NO SITES NO DEALS.


The past eight years was steady job growth in Emporia and Lyon County. A few independent third-party groups have validated that growth.

Wichita State University (WSU) Center for Economic Development and Business Research (CEDBR) presented at their annual Emporia Economic Outlook, the Kansas Economic Trends report. Some of the highlights for Lyon County were as follows:

In 2019, Lyon County accounted for 21% of the total employment within the Southeast region. Total employment within the county increased by 1.1% when compared to 2018. The increase of 159 jobs was due to the manufacturing sector for the county. The second fastest growing sector in Lyon County was professional and business services with 2.7% growth and added 27 jobs.

In October 2020 the Most Dynamic Micropolitan Communities ranking was issued by Heartland Forward group. Emporia was ranked 134th out of 151 U.S. Micropolitan cities, population from 10,000 to 50,000. Of the sixteen Kansas Micropolitan cities, Emporia was ranked first. In the 2019 rankings Emporia was ranked 347, the fifth highest in Kansas.

The Heartland Forward utilizes the data sets of 2019 population, Young Firms Employment Ratio, Young Firm Knowledge Industry, 2018 Per-capita personal income, 2017 to 2018 employment growth, 2017-2010 Average Annual Pay Growth, and 2017-2018 Personal Income Growth. The following table has those data points for the sixteen Kansas micropolitan cities.


A full explanation of the data used in their ranking determination can be found at this website: https://heartlandforward.org/media/pages/most-dynamic-micropolitans-2020/3903387688-1601916866/hf_micropolitan-report-final-updated-web.pdf

On page 10 of the report, the following comments were made:

“Micropolitan areas with community colleges that are developing curriculum to meet the needs of local employers obtain benefits also. Employers need to continually adapt to the changing skill requirements of their industries to remain competitive. Those community colleges rapidly adjusting curriculum offerings support their students in obtaining employment at firms in their region. Employers creating apprenticeship programs linked to the curriculum at community colleges assist the retention of graduates.

   “A portfolio approach to economic development is effective. Communities actively recruiting firms from other locations to relocate or start local establishments appear to achieve more robust economic growth. Also in their portfolio approach are supporting indigenous expansion (i.e., originating in the local community and expanding) and startup activity. Communities with economic development officials actively engaged in scanning for best practices in regulatory and tax policies, technical assistance, strategies for workforce development and business retention and recruitment exhibit stronger economic growth.”

Heartland Forward is an institute for economic renewal and the first-of-its-kind “think and do” tank with a mission to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth, and improved health outcomes. We conduct independent, data-driven research to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations.

Return on Investment

Hostess Brands/Dolly Madison closed in November 2012, which eliminated 543 jobs in Emporia. In April 2013, the new Hostess Brands LLC purchased the assets from the bankruptcy court and the bakery was reopened. Over the next several years nearly 600 workers were added. Additionally Simmons Pet Foods expanded their operations in 2013, 2014, 2017, and 2019 creating an additional full time jobs. Of the top twelve private companies which include Tyson Foods, Hostess Brands, Simmons Pet Food, Hopkins Manufacturing Corporation, EVCO, CAMSO, Detroit Reman, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Norfolk Iron & Metal, Birch Communications, VEKTEK, and Better Life Technologies, in 2013 there were 2,347 employees, which increased by 1,113 employees to 3,422 employees in 2020.

The following table depicts the growth in employment of our top twelve private sector employers with 100 or more employees. The RDA staff contacts these employers in January of each year. The change in employment for 2020 is not reflected in this table.

Top Private Sector Employers

In the City of Emporia with 100 or more Employees Job Growth

January 1, 2013 to 2020

Note: Hostess Brands closed and liquidated in November 2012. The assets were purchased on April 8, 2013. The new owners opened the plant in April 2013.

The past twenty-six years, the year to date private sector capital investment in real estate, buildings, and production equipment has yielded more than $1,017,000,000. In new construction over 2,647,443 sq. ft. of industrial buildings have been constructed; and over 2,500 new full-time jobs have been created. The following table depicts that growth in five-year increments.



1995-1999 $49,554,534 494,277
2000-2004 $97,059,269 797,985
2005-2009 $611,535,467 759,461
2010-2014 $150,640,000 183,445
2015-2019 $68,335,777 412,265
2020-2024 $40,000,000 0
Totals $1,017,125,047 2,647,433

Simmons Pet Food Expansion

The announcements of expansions occurred on November 1, 2017 with the construction in 2018 and 2019 of a 200,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility north of their west facility on Warren Way. Simmons also added 125,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space on their east building, and renovated the west building into the Simmons Pet Food Medical Clinic.

As mentioned in the last two year’s RDA Annual Reports the warehouse and clinic renovation was completed in 2018. All three projects utilized local contractors, creating a significant economic impact during the construction phase. BlueScope Construction constructed the building and installed the pre-cast concrete panels. Evergreen Design Build assisted BlueScope on the building interior, and the office finishes.

The ribbon cutting was held on June 6, 2019 with Governor Kelly, Simmons Chair Mark Simmons, and other dignitaries were in attendance. The total capital investment in building improvements and equipment was reported $60,000,000.

Simmons Pet Food employment with this expansion would increase over time by 200 employees. The projected total employment at the Emporia Simmons facility is over 700 employees.

On November 4, 2019 Simmons announced plans to optimize pet food operations. The Pennsauken facility would close by late 2020. The majority of that production would be relocated to Emporia. The new job creation could be significant.

On January 1, 2020 Simmons had 752 employees. In early December 2020 the total employment was 1,230 full-time employees, an increase of 470 full-time employees. Several hundred of those employees were temporary workers who were hired full-time and now receive full benefits. The majority of employment increase was attributed to the increased production at the flex package facility. The new high-speed canning equipment was installed in the 1400 E. Logan Avenue building, and production was moved from the New Jersey plant to Emporia. This year’s employment growth will be greater than 470 full-time jobs, the most jobs created in the last quarter century in Emporia.

October 27, 2020, Simmons Pet Food plans to expand production capacity in two phases with more carry capacity in Arkansas as the first phase. Then in 4th quarter 2021 a new facility with 240 million unit capacity.

Simmons recently invested $100 million in a new growth plan, which helped fund the construction of its new Emporia Flex Plant in 2019 and the installation of a new high-speed canning line at its main Emporia, Kansas plant. That line became fully operational in October 2020.

To recap, an additional $40 million investment in production equipment and the creation of 470 new jobs occurred in Emporia in 2020.


On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared a world-wide pandemic. Within days or weeks, the USA, State of Kansas, and Lyon County declared stay at home orders and closed non-essential businesses.

The businesses that are dependent upon in person transactions and high densities of individuals were the most severely impacted on the first wave of the pandemic. Small Retail, Service, and Travel & Tourism industries were severely financially and emotionally impacted.

The essential businesses in the manufacturing sector were able to continue operations, but had the additional responsibilities of screening employees, social distancing, increased frequency of sanitizing common use areas, and providing personal protection equipment (PPE). A few of the essential businesses had employees with Covid outbreaks. The continued management and sanitary processes has abated some of the county spread.

Those businesses that provide goods or services other non-essential businesses had a severe drop of sales and orders. Several downsized and reduced hours of operations to cut costs.

The RDA staff surveyed the primary business community to determine types of assistance needed. Early on during the pandemic there were shortages of PPE. Sources were located.

The RDA staff provided technical assistance to the Road to Recovery Committee in providing assistance to the various small business sectors.

As the second wave of COVID has begun in November, and decreased some in early December, we prepare for a long winter. The prospect of two or three COVID-19 vaccines being approved, we are all hopeful that the beginning of the end of COVID-19 will become more of a reality in second or third quarter of 2021.


In 2005, Jeremy Rusco began his company Dynamic Discs. Dynamic Distribution began operations in 2014 and soon outgrew their storefront at 912 Commercial Street. The RDA made introductions to the building owner of 3601 W. 6th Avenue. The 20,000 sq. ft. building was purchased by Dynamic Distribution and within a few years bursting at the seams.

This year Dynamic Distribution positioning itself into a new marketing, and e-commerce sales position poised for growth. The pandemic accelerated that growth. Disc golf is the perfect business and sport with social distancing in a pandemic and recession to experience explosive growth.

With Detroit Reman announcing the closing of the Emporia facility by the end of 2020, the availability of the building provided an opportunity for Dynamic Distribution’s growth.

In the fall of 2020, Dynamic Distribution negotiated the purchase of the Detroit Reman 80,000 sq. ft. building at 840 Overlander Road.

As part of the performance-based incentive proposal, Dynamic Distribution’s building at 3601 West 6th Avenue was purchased for $650,000 by Emporia Enterprises, the land management organization for the RDA and the City of Emporia. It’s the plan that once the real estate transaction is completed, the 3601 W. 6th Avenue building will be listed for sale.

The real estate transaction of Dynamic Distribution and Emporia Enterprises will be completed prior to the end of 2020.

For a few months, when the Dynamic Distribution building is remodeled, their operations will continue at 3601 W. 6th Avenue, then by March or April 2021, all operations will be moved to the new building.   


The RDA assisted the City of Emporia on the submission of the Fanestil FEMA Pre Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant to fund the demolition of the Highway 99 building and compensate the owner for the building. This summer, we received a notification on the FEMA grant requesting a Phase II Environmental Assessment needed to be completed in order to proceed with the grant.

The results of the Phase II indicated there was contamination in the soil in one test well, and water contamination in two test wells. Those results were sent to KDHE, who indicated that Fanestil needs to develop a clean-up plan, then submit the plan to KDHE.

Fanestil has hired Terracon to enroll Fanestil in the voluntary cleanup program, then submit a plan to determine the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the contamination in or around those test wells. Then the will submit a proposed cleanup plan to KDHE.

When the proposed Fanestil cleanup plan is approved, then Fanestil will proceed. The cleanup plan could take six to nine months to complete.

The FEMA PDM grant funding is available until September 2023. Assuming the site is cleaned and KDHE issues the No Further Action (NFA), there should be enough time to complete the project.

FEMA indicated a high probability of approval of the PDM grant when KDHE issues No Further Action (NFA) required. In other words, when the environmental issues are resolved, the project could be funded.


On February 18, 2020, Detroit Reman corporate offices announced the Emporia operations would be closing by year’s end.

The decommissioning of the plant and layoffs have occurred in 2020. Most of the 123 employees have found employment. Their 840 Overlander building will be purchased by Dynamic Distribution before the end of the year.

The leased warehouse at 841 Overlander owned by a local investment group has a lease with Detroit Reman for a few years in the future. The building owners have a prospective business interested in leasing or purchase. Nothing is finalized yet.


The BLI business located downtown on the second level of 628 Merchant Street and the entire 715 Merchant Street business was purchased by Heartland Capital. There will be 28 employees here in Emporia, a reduction from the past.

The business was purchased but not the real estate. Those buildings are listed for lease. Because of COVID-19 most Emporia employees are working remotely.


Earlier this year Fusion emerged from bankruptcy. They continue to own the 1301 Chestnut Street building, a 30,000 sq. ft. customer service office building. There are approximately 80 or so Emporia employees. The majority work remotely from home because of COVID-19. A few work at the office because their home is in a rural area with slow internet service.  


Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT)

  • Economic Development Grant – 2020

The Simmons expansion, with the New Jersey operations to Emporia and adding high speed canning equipment and new jobs in the 1400 E. Logan Avenue building, the City of Emporia was able to leverage a $500,000 grant on a $700,000 project, for repaving on East South Avenue from East Street to Weaver Street, E. Logan Avenue from Warren Way to Weaver Street, and Weaver Street from the BNSF tracks to E. Logan Avenue, and then rebuilt Weaver Street from Highway 50 to 6th Avenue.

  • ACCESS Grant

In 1st & 2nd quarter the utilities along Road F from Highway 50 to Road 180 will be relocated to accommodate the paving of Road F in late 2nd to 4th quarter 2021.


The Emporia RDA is a $10,000 supporter of the Team Kansas/Kansas Department of Commerce Marketing Events. This past year we were economic development partners in four events – Idaho, New Jersey, California, and Washington DC. All the Team Kansas events were postponed in 2020. The 2020 Team Kansas contribution will be carried over to 2021. At this point in time no in-person Team Kansas Marketing events are scheduled until 3rd quarter 2021. That is subject to change.

On December 17, 2020 I will participate in a Virtual Site Selection consultant event with the Kansas Department of Commerce.

As mentioned in last year’s report under the direction of Governor Kelly, David Toland has been rebuilding the staff at the Kansas Department of Commerce. The business recruitment staff now has five staff members representing the West Coast region, Texas, the Midwest Region, South Central, and the East Coast. In addition, there are two international business recruitment staff.

With COVID-19 the development and implementation of the “Framework for Growth”, an undated Strategic Plan for the State of Kansas is getting close to implementation.

The past year, the Kansas Department of Commerce has developed three business grant assistance programs. One fund early in the year through CDBG funds, and the other programs funded by Federal Cares funding. Many small businesses were funded in Emporia from this program.

We received 25 leads from the Kansas Department of Commerce, one lead from the Kansas City Area Development Council, and several leads developed at the Select USA event. A few of those leads are still active.

MARKETING – Targeted & FDI

In addition to the leads received from our economic development partners – Kansas Department of Commerce, and the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC), we partner with the Transatlantic Business Investment Council (TBIC). The Emporia RDA has been a TBIC community partner since 2017.

TBIC is organized to connect Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from European nations into the United States. The RDA has partnered with TBIC on their domestic (USA) market efforts, one of the events is 2020 SelectUSA in Washington DC, which was postponed.

This year, we received one lead on a European company seeking a location for their U.S. operation. In November was the VIRTUAL TBIC meeting.

Over the past several years, the RDA has contracted with Applied Marketing for a target marketing campaign. In 2018 the marketing approach was to identify those targeted businesses considering expansion in our area by utilizing LinkedIn.

In late 2019 and early 2020, the RDA entered into a contract with Research on Investment (ROI) to conduct a Target Industry Snapshot. The report was completed in February 2020. The Target Industry Snapshot identified Food Manufacturing and Supply Chain, Precision Manufacturing, Emerging Opportunities – Sporting Goods and Outdoor Recreation, both small niche industries.

The RDA entered into a six month lead generation process beginning on September 1, 2020 for a fee of $28,000. The project would develop a prospect list of 300 companies with the objective of developing 20 qualified meetings (i.e. Zoom calls).

In Lieu of in-person site selection consultant conversation events, the RDA participated in the Consultant Connect event on December 8th and the SEDC Meet the Consultants marketing event on November 12th. 

The print advertisements for internal and external marketing ads in the Emporia Gazette – Relocation Guide Spring 2020 and the Sallie Magazine in the Fall 2020.

The Kansas Department of Commerce asked economic development partners to participate in the Site Selection January 2021 Kansas edition. Emporia placed a full-page advertisement.


Emporia Enterprises is the land management and development entity for our large tract industrial/business park sites.

As mentioned last year, and this year at the Lyon County Commissioners meeting, the supply pad ready industrial sites is low as site selection consultant Jay Garner has stated many times, “NO PRODUCT, NO PROJECT”.

We have three small lots in Park III, two 8-acre lots and one narrow rectangular lot of 15acres. Park IC has three lots totaling 148 acres with one 100-acre lot, a 26-acre lot, and a 22-acre lot. These lots need paved access, three-phase electric power, and the north portion of Lot 1, and Lot 3 need sanitary sewer and natural gas.

As mentioned in the Grants section, Road F will be paved adjacent to the entire west side of Lot 1 by 4th quarter 2021.

Emporia Enterprises is in conversations with a landowner that has a 80 plus acre tract with potential for a pad ready industrial site with a minimum of infrastructure improvements.

We are working with the Kansas Department of Commerce on the Industrial Site Certification process for Park III, and Park IV. Evergy gave us a $5,000 grant to perform soil borings and geotechnical analysis of the soil in Park IV. Coty Park III, and IV will require a new Phase 1 Environmental Assessment Analysis. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will conduct the studies at no charge for Park III.

This past year Emporia Enterprises purchased a 1.4 acre tract with a house and outbuilding as a potential industrial site. It is directly across the street from Simmons Pet Food.

Then as mentioned earlier, Emporia Enterprises will be purchasing the Dynamic Distribution building at 3601 W. 6th Avenue with funding being received from the City of Emporia to assist in the performance-based incentive for Dynamic Distribution.