Department of Commerce Had Record Year

It was a record year for a Kansas agency which helps small businesses and entrepreneurs.

According to Kansas State University Research and Extension, despite a year when the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shuttered many businesses – and some permanently – one Kansas agency is reporting record success in helping the state’s entrepreneurs survive and thrive.

Craig VanWey, the manager for in-state business development with the Kansas Department of Commerce, said his team completed 148 successful projects in 2020, surpassing the previous high of 134 in 2012.

In addition, VanWey said the KDOC set a record for new capital investment in Kansas made by new, expanding or relocating companies. In 2020, he noted, the agency helped foster $2.5 billion in net new capital investments statewide.

“Our team is doing a good job of getting out and keeping in constant contact in the region, becoming aware of those projects that involve expansion and helping in whatever ways that the Department of Commerce can,” he said.

VanWey was the featured speaker recently during K-State Research and Extension’s monthly online series, First Friday e-Calls, which helps to nurture small businesses and inspire entrepreneurship in Kansas.

KDOC’s in-state business development team consists of eight representatives in regions across Kansas. VanWey said the business development division operates like “a three-legged stool,” providing assistance in business retention and expansion; business recruitment; and international trade and export assistance.

He noted that many Kansas business owners are eligible for various incentive programs, including:

  • High Performance Incentive Program (HPIP), which provides tax incentives to eligible companies making new capital investment.
  • Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK), which allows qualified companies to retain or receive a refund of state withholding taxes resulting from the creation of new jobs.
  • Kansas Industrial Training program (KIT), which provides grants to companies to help offset the cost of training new employees.
  • Kansas Industrial Retraining program (KIR), which is similar to KIT, but provides grants to companies to help offset the cost of training existing employees on new technology.
  • Machinery and equipment personal property tax exemption, which exempts personal property tax on eligible business machinery and equipment.

So far in 2021, VanWey noted that the in-state business development team has completed 51 successful projects with Kansas business owners – well on their way to another record year.

“What I’m especially proud of is that those 51 successful projects involve 30 Kansas counties,” VanWey said. “That’s pretty impressive. These successful projects are not dominated by the larger-populated counties. I really like to see that because it reflects that positive things are happening all around the state, in our rural areas, as well.”