2019 RDA Annual Report

2019 RDA Annual Report Main Photo

17 Dec 2019

Annual Reports


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.

Board Members Rob Gilligan, and Pat Wiederholt have reached their term limitation on the Board of Directors. We thank them for their service.


Voting Members

Rob Gilligan, 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
  • Pat Wiederholt, 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

  • Rob Gilligan, Chair
  • Jim Kessler, Vice Chair
  • Jeanine McKenna, Secretary
  • Mark McAnarney, Treasurer
  • Kent Heermann, President CEcD
  • Robin Nelson, Executive Assistant

Past RDA Board of Directors (1994 to 2019)

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

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

Garner Economics in it’s July/August 2019 newsletter presented a report entitled “Job Growth: The Fastest Growing States and Counties in the U.S. – A Five-Year View of Net Job Growth.” The State of Kansas net employment growth was 3.5% – Lyon County’s net employment growth was 1,018 jobs or 7.2% from 2013 to 2018. The majority of those 1,018 jobs were in the manufacturing sector with the new Hostess Brands LLC and Simmons Pet Food expansions with job creation.

If you are interested in reading more of the Garner Economics Report follow the following link: https://www.garnereconomics.com/images/reports/Job_Growth_by_State_and_Counties-2019.pdf

At the Wichita State University (WSU) Center for Economic Development and Business Research (CEDBR) at the Emporia Economic Outlook, the Kansas Economic Trends report was presented. The Highlights for Lyon County were as follows:

“Employment fell slightly in Lyon County in 2017 and 2018. Despite this, the county added over 1,000 jobs between 2013 and 2018, though it is still not back to the 2008 levels. The decline of employment was driven primarily by retail in 2018, but the county saw a growth in manufacturing jobs, which are generally higher paying than retail. Despite a decline in retail employment, retail sales were up in 2018 and early 2019”.

Simmons Pet Food continues to grow with their expansion announcement in 2017 and project completion/commissioning in 2019. With the announcement in November 2019 that production from New Jersey would be optimized by moving to Emporia, with more job growth and equipment investment will follow.   

The Glendo expansion nears completion; and Cargill’s warehouse was completed and operational in 2019.

The Bunge rail spur will create greater efficiency at the plant. Fusion (Birch) will be emerging from bankruptcy in 2020. Fanestil Meats is working on its Phase II expansion, and seeking FEMA funding to relocate out of the flood plain.

The Emporia RDA has partnered with the City of Emporia on various Federal and State grants. The EDA infrastructure grant for the million gallon water tower in Park III will be operational before the end of the year.

The paving of Road F north from Highway 50 to Road 180 should be completed in 2021 with the assistance of a Kansas Department of Transportation Access grant.

The past year was a culmination on many multi-years projects that were completed and operational. The past seven years has been great economic growth and prosperity in our region.

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, and 2017 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 2,804 employees, which increased by 1,095 employees to 3,422 employees in 2019.



1995-1999 $49,554,534 494,277
2000-2004 $97,059,269 797,985
2005-2009 $611,535,457 759,461
2010-2014 $150,640,000 183,445
2015-2019 $68,355,777 412,265
Totals $977,125,047 2,647,433

The year to date total capital investment $977,125,000 with the construction of over 2,647,443 sq. ft. in buildings and the creation of over 2,100 new full-time jobs. Since 2013, one thousand seventy five of those 2,100 jobs have been created.

Simmons Pet Food Expansion

On November 1st 2017 Simmons Pet Food announced their expansion project. The construction of a new 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 last year’s RDA Annual Report 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 office finishes.

The ribbon cutting was held on June 6, 2019 with Governor Kelly, Mark Simmons and other dignitaries in attendance. The total capital investment in building improvements and equipment was $60,000,000. The 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. The appendix is project expansion facts.

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. The increased employment level has not been publicly disclosed at this time.


On March 20, 2019 the Incentive Compliance Agreement was signed with Glendo and the City of Emporia. The expansion plan will expand their current building by 40,765 sq. ft. with the addition of six full-time employees to their existing staff of 50 employees. The total capital investment is greater than $4,335,000.


The 50,000 sq. ft. warehouse addition to the existing Cargill Pet Food plant on Graphic Arts Road was completed in early 2019.


Bunge acquired land adjacent to and on the north side of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad mainline and the BNSF Emporia to Topeka line for a rail spur to better serve the rail tanker car capacity at their plant. Construction on the rail spur was completed in the fall of 2019. It was an extremely wet year. Bunge had well over 100 weather day delays during the construction of the spur. Bunge will be able to have 70 plus rail cars on the spur line which increases plant efficiency.


Birch Communications was purchased by FUSION (NASDAQ:FSNN) in May 2018. On June 3, 2019 Fusion declared bankruptcy. The company plans to emerge from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy before the end of the year.


On July 12, 2018 Michelin, based in Clermont-Ferrand, France announced the purchase of the Magog, Quebec-based off-road tire and rubber track producer and continue their over-the-road (OTR) tire division based in Canada. The $1.45 billion acquisition was completed on December 18, 2018. CAMSO has two buildings in Emporia – 1601 E. South Avenue and 1730 E. Logan Avenue.

The 1601 building produces OEM rubber tracks and wheels, and the 1730 building remanufactures re-treading the tracks and wheels.


The past year the Cottonwood River has flooded numerous times. Two Federal Disaster Declarations were signed by the President.

On behalf of Fanestil, the City of Emporia, with the assistance of the RDA, submitted a Letter of Intent (LOI) for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) on August 15, 2019. The available HMGP funds for both of these Federally Declared Disasters was inadequate to fund the Fanestil relocation project from their 1542 South Highway 99 Emporia, KS 66801 facility.

Another nation-wide Federal Grant Program is the Pre Disaster Mitigation Grant Program with funding of 75% Federal and 25% local match the application deadline is January 30, 2020. In order to qualify for grant submission, the Benefit Cost Analysis must be greater than 1.

The City of Emporia and Fanestil are equally funding a $10,000 Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) study with Stantec. Assuming the cost benefit is greater than one, then the City of Emporia may submit a PDM application to FEMA provided Fanestil agrees to provide the local match. 


U.S. Department of Commerce EDA Infrastructure Grant

The one-million gallon water tower project located in southeast Emporia in Park III supported the Simmons Pet Food expansion and provided more overhead water storage, pressure, and volume for the entire City of Emporia Water System.

August 2017 the RDA staff, City staff, BG Consulting, and environmental consultants submitted the pre-grant application. We were invited to submit a grant application. In late November supporting documentation was submitted before the end of January 2018.

We were informed on April 11, 2018 by the U.S. Department of Commerce – EDA the award of a $1,341,000 EDA Infrastructure Grant. The City of Emporia will be matching the $1.3 million grant for the water tower construction, plus the additional engineering expense.

The water tower construction began in late 2018. The dedication and tank raising was on September 10, 2019. Before the end of 2019, the water tower will be in service.

Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) Access Grant

On June 1, 2018, in a collaborative effort between the RDA, and city staff, an Access Management Construction Reimbursement grant was submitted for the paving improvements and traffic control of Road F from U.S. Highway 50 to Road 180.

On June 14, 2018 the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) informed us that the construction funding had tentatively been approved for fiscal years 2020-2022.

The total estimated project cost is $1,760,000 with the state’s share being $1,492,000 and the local match being $268,000. The City Engineering Department will design the project in house which is $224,000 of the local match. The accrual local cash would be for right-of-way acquisition and infrastructure relocation costs.

The infrastructure, right-of-way acquisition and design work will be completed in 2020. The bid will be the winter of 2020-2021 with construction in 2021 of Road F.


The Emporia RDA is a $10,000 supporter of the Team Kansas/Kansas Department of Commerce Marketing Events. This past year we participated in four events – Santa Barbara CA, Dallas TX, Chicago IL, and Washington DC.

At the beginning of 2019 Governor Kelly began her team. David Toland was approved as the Kansas Secretary of Commerce. On March 1st David Toland toured Emporia for half a day.

The Kansas Department of Commerce (KDOC) has begun rebuilding the staff and functions, just recently Peter Davis was hired as the west coast Business Development Consultant.  

The Kansas Department of Commerce has contracted McKinsey & Associates to facilitate the development of a statewide economic development action plan entitled, “Kansas Framework for Growth”.  

On September 19, 2019 a lunch meeting was arranged in Emporia for a Taiwanese Agriculture Trade Goodwill Mission. This delegation had lunch in Emporia and toured the Tyson plant.

We received eleven 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. Many 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) which rebranded from the European American Investment Council (EAIC). The Emporia RDA has been a 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 EAIC on their domestic (USA) market efforts, some of the events are 2019 SelectUSA in Washington, DC, meeting with actual company representatives during the event. Emporia has an active lead, which may make an expansion in the U.S. in two to three years.

Last year, we received three leads on European companies seeking locations for their U.S. operations.

In November was the annual EAIC meeting in Richmond, VA.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA), formerly NAFTA, was approved by congress this week, and hopefully the senate will approve in late 2019 or early 2020. The agreement was ratified by all three countries. According to our TBIC partner, several changes to the agreement would encourage more FDI from automotive supplier companies from Germany.

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.

Through the Applied Marketing Smart Leads Screening program over 385 leads were developed. Of those 385 leads, 381 were contacted through LinkedIn. Of those 381, 149 of the companies contacted connected on the Emporia RDA President’s LinkedIn account. Over 1,099 individuals at those 381 companies were contacted. Of the individuals contacted we had 189 connect to the RDA LinkedIn account. As a result of Applied Marketing efforts, there were 12 LinkedIn conference calls with those prospective companies.

In 2019, we began research and contacting other target market firms with the intention of continuing the market efforts.


On February 1, 2019 the EDA announced the 2019 Regional Innovation Strategies Program competition through EDA i6 challenge grant up to $750,000 over a three year time period.

The RDA staff assisted the ad hoc group THINK with the grant application by submitting the information through the web-based grants.gov portal. The grant was submitted on April 4, 2019.

The grant request was not approved. A revised application will be considered for the 2020 RIS i6 grant competition. 


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

In order to be competitive we need to have development-ready or pad-ready sites. The Site Selection Consultants Jay Garner and Dean Barber have sated many times, “No product, no project”.

With the Simmons Pet Food expansion project announced on November 1, 2017 and Cargill Pet Food expansion in April 2017, 45 acres of land in Park III were transferred to Simmons Pet Food as per the Incentive Compliance Agreement, and 5.8 acres were transferred to Cargill as per the Incentive Compliance Agreement.

The land inventory was reduced by 50 acres in 2018. The amount of industrial real estate under control is approximately 179 acres.

Industrial Park III has two 8 acre lots and one 15 acre lot available for development. These three lots have all utilities and paved access. They are smaller than the typical project requests.

Park IV has 148 acres with a 100 acre tract, a 26 acre tract, and a 22 acre tract. These tracts are not totally ready for development. This past summer, with the cooperation of the City of Emporia staff, a Kansas Department of Transportation grant to fund the construction of Road F from Highway 50 north to Road 180 was applied for. The project design may start in 2020 with construction as early as 2021.

The Emporia Lyon County Comprehensive Plan with the proposed regulatory plan is being vetted for approval I 2020. With the proposed zoning regulations in Park IV from Light Industrial to Industrial Flex future industrial development is at risk.

In 2019 Emporia Enterprises purchase options expired on the Evans Tract, a 307 acre tract located northeast of the intersection of Road S and Road 200 The Price Tract, a 318 acre tract located northwest of the intersection of Road S and Road 200 option expired on July 31, 2019.

The Price family agreement to list the property for sale and proceed with a request for a zoning change to Heavy Industrial on the 318 acre tract. The Emporia RDA staff, in collaboration with Emporia Enterprises, the Price family, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) were working together to obtain the rezoning of the property and then to qualify the property as a BNSF rail certified site.

The certification would give Emporia/Lyon County a competitive advantage over other locations in our region.

The zoning request had a protest petition filed, which requires a ¾ majority vote. Since there are only three Lyon County Commissioners, it would require three affirmative votes or 100% to approve a motion to change the zoning. The vote was two yes, which was a 66% majority, but failed because it required all three votes.


In June 2017, a representative from Blue Beacon contacted the Emporia RDA office during their due diligence period. They had a purchase option on property located west of the Flying J Travel Center.

The construction of the Blue Beacon was completed in 2019.


The 200-MW Reading Wind Farm project located adjacent to Reading, Kansas in Lyon County and Osage County should be operational in 2020. RES is constructing the wind farm for Southern Power, who will be selling the electric power to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

The 62 Siemens Gamesa wind turbines are expected to generate roughly 760,000 megawatt hours of clean renewable energy per year.