Four organizations from Sedgwick county will receive approximately $10.8 million as state matching grants to improve infrastructure and bring new economic activity into the area.
The Kansas Department of Commerce administers the American Rescue Plan Act and provides the grant money through BASE. This program is worth $50 million and will benefit the city of Bel Aire as well as Exploration Place, Hutton and Groover Labs.
To continue Kansas' record-breaking success at attracting businesses and jobs, we must invest heavily in infrastructure and economic growth, said Gov. Laura Kelly stated in a press release. "That's what these grants do. I'm proud we worked together, across the party lines, to keep driving our state forward."
The second round of funding was awarded to the program. Its goal is to meet infrastructure and economic needs that have been delayed or negatively affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Counties and local governments, chambers of commerce, economic development groups and other stakeholders could apply. A minimum match of 25% is required.
Sedgwick county BASE recipients include:
Groover Labs: 1,150,554 dollars
Getting Bel Aire shovel ready
Ty Lasher, Bel Aire's city manager, says that the BASE grant is going to be used to fund a project to extend sewer mains in the city to service the next phases of Sunflower Commerce Park. The project will cost approximately $6.5 million.
Sunflower Commerce Park is located at 53rd & Webb and currently has 11 businesses. This includes a FedEx Distribution Center and an indoor sports facility called Wichita Hoops.
According to the application several national companies have recently toured Bel Aire sites and all five of them indicated that the lack water and sewer mains prevented their selection.
Lasher stated that "our goal was to have all of that - there are about 400 acres still available for development - and get them shovel ready. This is a huge economic advantage for the State and the Area."
This possibility is now much more likely to become a reality, as Integra Technologies along with up to five other suppliers will be expected to relocate to Bel Aire on the K-254 Corridor.
Lasher, a BASE grant recipient, said: "This is only the beginning of our improvements. We're hearing that suppliers are likely to come."
Adam Smith, the president and CEO of Science Museum, stated that Exploration Place’s $3 million grant will help bring phase two, of a multimillion-dollar outdoor expansion project, much closer to realization.
Smith said, "I'm very humbled and honored to receive this award. I know that it was a highly competitive category and I respect the Department of Commerce." "I'm very impressed with everything they have done in the last couple of years. The leadership, their approach to economic development and tourism is fantastic."
The first phase, which will cost approximately $1.5million, has already been funded. It involves a new outdoor theatre along the river, west of the museum. The project is scheduled to start later this year and be completed in 2024.
Phase 2 is a $17 million project to build a Destination Playscape outdoor to the south Exploration Place. The BASE grant has added $7.6million to the project, which is expected to be completed in 2025.
Smith stated that the best way to describe what they were trying to achieve was by creating a real tourism destination from a playground.
He compared playscape to the hugely successful Gathering Place in Tulsa - a new playground with a theme park feeling.
What would a Disney-designed playground look like? Smith asked.
Exploration Place’s Destination Playscape focuses on quality of life. Smith believes that this can be just as important for economic development.
Smith, Integra's president and CEO, said that the company's hiring plans for the future could result in 5,000 tech-related positions. "We have to make Wichita a desirable place to live and work. I think that having events like this will help to change people's minds, they'll see that it's somewhere I could take my child."
Hutton, a Wichita-based company, received $2 million in state funding to expand at Maize industrial park, located near 53rd Street and 119th Street. The park includes Reiloy USA and Evans Building Co. as well as Shuttle Aerospace, and other companies.
Ben Hutton, CEO of Hutton, said in an email to the WBJ that he was "excited to support the continued growth in our area by expanding the tremendously popular Maize Industrial Park". The park's rail access, abundance of utilities and proximity to K-96 make it an ideal location for companies looking to relocate or expand their operations in south-central Kansas.