Wichita offers many advantages for headquarters operations, shared service and customer service centers
The two largest privately-held companies in the United States, Koch Industries and Cargill, have headquarters facilities in Wichita – encompassing human resources, information technology, engineering, logistics, accounting and auditing services, risk management, legal services, regulatory compliance, public affairs, marketing and business development capabilities.
Koch Industries, with $115 billion in annual revenue and 120,000 employees in 60 countries, has its 3,600-employee global headquarters at its Wichita campus. Koch is a diversified conglomerate involved in refining and chemicals, pollution control equipment, minerals, fertilizers, fibers and polymers, commodity and financial trading, and forest and consumer products. In December 2012, Koch announced construction of a new 210,000 square foot building -- since completed on its Wichita campus -- which has added hundreds of new jobs.
Cargill, with $120 billion in annual revenue and 150,000 employees worldwide, has a major subsidiary, Cargill Protein Group, headquartered in downtown Wichita (900 local employees.) Cargill Protein Group is a leading processor and distributor of beef, pork and poultry products for both the retail and food service markets.
Wichita hosts over a dozen customer service and processing centers – including Protection One (700 employees), T-Mobile (748) and Cox Communications (500). Much of the workforce is accustomed to shift work and has relatively neutral accent.
Nearly 27.0% of Wichita metro residents age 25 and over are high school graduates. About 7.5% hold associate degrees, 19.2% hold bachelor's degrees and 9.4% have advanced degrees. Another 26.0% have some college credit. Metro Wichita has 11 colleges and universities, as well as six vo-tech schools and community colleges. These institutions have enrollment of over 45,606 college amd graduate students – and produce roughly 4,100 bachelor degrees and 3,100 associate degrees annually.
WSU’s Barton School of Business offers bachelors and masters programs in business and accounting that are fully accredited by AACSB-International. Barton School is one of only 165 schools globally to hold both AACSB business and accounting accreditation – placing it in the top 12% of business schools worldwide. Persons recruited or transferred to Kansas for a full-time job qualify for immediate resident tuition at state universities, as do spouses and dependents residing with them (no 12-month residency requirement.) Contact the Wichita State University Registrar regarding required documentation.
Wichita public schools incorporate workplace skill standards into curriculum and graduation requirements. In April 2000, Wichita voters approved (by a 2-to-1 margin) a $284 million school bond issue to fund new school buildings, modernization and expansion of existing schools and enhanced student computer facilities. The funding also provided for installation of air conditioning in every school facility. In November 2008, voters approved a $370 million bond issue to add 275 new classrooms, 6 new schools and 60 storm shelters. In addition, the funding paid for upgrades to technical education programs and renovations to athletic and fine arts facilities. Wichita also offers first-rate K-12 private and parochial schools. Approximately 7,800 high school graduates are produced annually in the Wichita metro area. Metro area workforce availability is enhanced by healthy population growth. Metro population grew by 64,771 persons or 11.2% from 2000 to 2015. Sedgwick County (pop. 511,574) is the central metro county – with projected 2035 population of 582,000. McConnell Air Force Base borders southeast Wichita – adding about 2,000 spouses of military personnel to the labor pool. The base also produces about 500 local military discharges annually – personnel with diverse skills and disciplined work ethic. Wichita area pay scales represent good value. The most recent federal statistic (2015) for Wichita metro average annual pay is $44,614 – that is $8,323 or 16% below the national metro area average of $52,937.
Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas offers a one-stop system to match job seekers and employers – including comprehensive testing and assessment. This turn-key service provides qualified applicants to new or expanding businesses.
In August 2006, WSU’s Center for Economic Development & Business Research released a survey of the metro area information technology workforce. Although Wichita may not appear on the surface to possess a large I.T. community, it was documented that such an I.T. community does exist – primarily embedded within local “non-I.T.” companies. Furthermore, 70% of survey respondents stated that area educational institutions do a good job of preparing students for IT professions.
Construction and Occupancy Costs
Wichita’s July 2016 Means Commercial Construction Cost Index was 90.2 – nearly 10% below national average. Wichita area Class A office space asking rent averages $17.32 per sq ft per year – versus the national metro average of $28.97 (Q1-2015.)
Legal and Regulatory Environment
GWEDC is the one-stop for regulatory and permitting aspects of economic development projects. Such projects receive expedited handling – fast track permitting, dedicated on-site inspection service, etc.
Kansas offers one of the nation’s best business climates. The most recent (2015) Pacific Research Institute 50-State Small Business Regulation Index ranked Kansas #4 among the 50 states (1 = best.) PRI cited low regulatory burden, low litigation, etc. The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform 2015 State Liability Systems Study ranked Kansas as having one of the nation’s most business-friendly litigation environments. Kansas ranked #19 (1 = best.) Pollina Corporate Real Estate 2015 report ranked Kansas #5 among the top 10 pro-business states. Area Development awarded Kansas its Silver Shovel award in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016; and its Gold Shovel award in 2013 -- for job creation and investment projects – citing few regulatory obstacles.
Kansas is one of only eight constitutional Right-To-Work states. There is virtually no union activity among Wichita area private sector office employers. Kansas is an "at will" employment state with no unusual restrictions such as business telephone monitoring laws.
Business equipment newly purchased, leased or moved into Kansas is property tax exempt – applying equally to manufacturing equipment and office business equipment, furniture and fixtures. Business personal property items under $1,500 original purchase price are property tax exempt regardless of acquisition date. Kansas Corporate Franchise Tax has been phased out entirely.
Telecommunications and Utilities
Wichita’s Central Time Zone location allows maximum voice communication time to either coast. All telecomm services are readily available – ranging from traditional switched and centrex-based dial tone services to self-healing SONET networks, frame relay and Advanced Intelligent Networks. All types of broadband business internet access are readily available (cable modem, DSL-ADSL, ISDN, VPN, T1, wireless broadband and satellite.)
Wichita hosts three competing local fiber optic networks (Cox Business Services, Level 3 Communications, AT&T.) Virtually all commercial areas of Wichita are equipped with fiber. In the rare case that fiber is not already installed, installation times are typically only 1 to 2 weeks. There have been no significant service disruptions over the past five years – certainly none area-wide or even localized for more than a few seconds. The vast majority of fiber optic cable is in protective underground conduit. A few very brief outages have been caused by unauthorized digging – which occurs in any metro area. All three networks have redundancy and nearly instantaneous automatic rerouting in the event of a break or malfunction – so downtime is virtually zero. All providers are in the utility “One-Call” program that “diggers” are legally obligated to contact prior to excavating.
Westar Energy’s average commercial electricity rate is 8.17 cents per Kilowatt hour – versus national average of 10.27 cents. Wichita area electric power is extremely reliable (99.976% uptime) and outages are almost always in non-commercial areas.
Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport is located in southwest Wichita approximately six miles (12 minutes) from downtown via four-lane limited access highway. In June 2011 the Wichita City Council approved construction of an entirely new $200 million 273,000-square-foot 12-gate terminal, parking garage and rental car facility at Eisenhower National. The new terminal opened in June 2015. Eisenhower National has non-stop service to 12 major hub cities via 6 carriers providing 35 arrivals/departures daily. All of Wichita's top 100 destinations have non-stop or one-stop service. The closest international hubs are Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta and Minneapolis. Wichita has non-stop service to all of these international gateways. Two quality discount airlines, Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air, have dramatically lowered fares.
Jabara Airport, a corporate general aviation airport with full service fixed base operations, is located in northeast Wichita.
Overnight air cargo service is provided by FedEx, UPS Supply Chain Solutions and DHL.
Quality of Life
Quality of life impacts workforce productivity and ability to recruit and retain personnel. Wichita possesses wide diversity of cultural and recreational options that compare very well to those of larger metro areas. Wichita also possesses what many larger metros lack – affordability, easy commuting and a high degree of public safety. Reasonable cost-of-living is a particularly effective recruiting inducement. Wichita’s 3rd quarter 2016 overall cost-of-living index is 90.7 – roughly 9% below the national urban area average. Wichita metro 3rd Quarter 2016 median selling price of previously-owned single-family homes was $135,700. Wichita ranked 27th lowest of 151 reporting metro areas – and $105,200 or 44% below the national median price of $240,900. Wichita metro 3rd Quarter 2016 average sale price of newly-built single-family homes was $228,773– $64,731 or 22% below the national figure of $293,504. Wichita’s 3rd Quarter 2016 average two-bedroom apartment rent was $692 – $332 or 32% lower than the national figure of $1,024. Wichita metro average one-way travel time to work is 19.3 minutes (26% shorter than national average.) Weather-related business disruption is very rare. Wichita is a hub for quality health care, with 17 acute care and free-standing specialty hospitals. Numerous clinics specialize in cardiovascular care, spinal care and outpatient surgery.