Wichita metro area offers many advantages for headquarters operations, shared service centers and customer service centers. The largest private company in the U.S. is headquartered in Wichita. Koch Industries, Inc., with more than $90 billion in revenues, owns a diverse group of companies involved in refining and chemicals; process and pollution control equipment and technologies; minerals; fertilizers; fibers and polymers; commodity and financial trading and services; and forest and consumer products. Koch companies have a presence in nearly 60 countries and employ about 80,000 people. The company’s Wichita headquarters, a 1.2 million-square-foot office complex with more than 2,000 Koch company employees is also the headquarters for other Koch subsidiaries as well as human resources, environmental health and safety, information technology, public affairs, risk management, legal services, tax and audit services and business development capabilities.
Viega GmbH, a global plumbing manufacturer, recently located its 125-employee North American Headquarters in Wichita.
Wichita hosts over a dozen customer service and processing centers – including a USPS Remote Encoding Center (985 employees), InfoNXX (950), T-Mobile (900), Royal Caribbean (700), Convergys (600), Protection One (540), Bank of America (315) and Cox Communications (230.) Much of the workforce is accustomed to shift work and has relatively neutral accent. Metro Wichita tied for fourth place among metros with populations between 200,000 and 1 million in Site Selection magazine’s 2007 ranking of metros with the most new and expanded corporate facilities. Wichita’s October 2011 Means Commercial Construction Cost Index was 87.4 – over 12% below national average. Wichita area Class A office space rent averages $17.34 per sq ft per year – versus the national metro average of $30.81 (Q3-2010.)
Nearly 88% of Wichita metro residents age 25 and over are high school graduates. About 7% hold associate degrees, 19% hold bachelor's degrees and 8% have advanced degrees. Another 26% 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 36,400 college students (16,500 part-time) – and produce roughly 2,500 bachelor degrees and 1,900 associate degrees annually.
WSU’s Barton School of Business offers bachelors and masters programs in business and accounting that are 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 U.S. business schools. 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. Contact WSU Registrar regarding required documentation.
Wichita public schools incorporate workplace skill standards into curriculum and graduation requirements. In April 2000, Wichita voters approved a $284 million bond issue for new school buildings, modernization of existing schools, enhanced student computer facilities and air conditioning in every school. Wichita also offers first-rate K-12 private and parochial schools. Approximately 5,200 high school graduates are produced annually in Sedgwick County alone. Metro area workforce availability is enhanced by healthy population growth. Metro population grew by 51,895 persons or 9.1% from 2000 to 2010. Sedgwick County (pop. 498,365) is the central metro county – with projected 2030 population of 567,033. 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 (2010) for Wichita metro average annual pay is $40,661 – that is $7,692 or 16% below the national metro area average of $48,353. 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. Workforce Solutions offers relocated spouse job search assistance, etc.
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 believe that area educational institutions do a good job of preparing students for IT professions. CEDBR conducted an extensive 2007 regional workforce survey. That report contains data on availability and skills of the Available Labor Pool (ALP) – which includes both currently employed and unemployed persons.
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 (November 2004) Pacific Research Institute U.S. Economic Freedom Index ranked Kansas #1 (best.) PRI cited low regulatory burden, low litigation, etc. Kansas ranked #10 in PRI’s 1999 report – trending very favorably. The U.S. Chamber Institute For Legal Reform 2007 State Liability Systems Study ranked Kansas as having one of the nation’s most business-friendly litigation environments. Kansas ranked #13 (1 = best) – and has trended favorably over recent ILR studies. Pollina Corporate Real Estate’s 2008 report ranked Kansas in the top 10 pro-business states. Area Development awarded Kansas its Silver Shovel award in both 2006 and 2007 for job creation and investment projects – citing few regulatory obstacles.
Kansas is one of only eight constitutional Right-To-Work states, and 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 is being phased out, and will be repealed altogether effective 2011.
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.
Wichita hosts three competing fiber optic networks, and virtually all commercial areas are fiber-equipped in protective underground conduit. All fiber networks have redundancy and automatic rerouting in the event of malfunction – downtime is virtually zero.
All types of broadband business internet access are readily available (cable modem, DSL-ADSL, ISDN, VPN, T1, wireless broadband and satellite.)
In the rare case that fiber is not already installed, installation times are typically only 1 to 2 weeks.
Westar Energy’s average commercial electricity rate is 6.34 cents per Kilowatt hour – versus national average of 9.46 cents. Wichita area electric power is extremely reliable (99.974% uptime) and outages are almost always in non-commercial areas.
Wichita Mid-Continent 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 Mid-Continent Airport. Construction is slated to start in Spring 2012, and the new terminal will become operational in 2015. Mid-Continent has non-stop service to 8 major hub cities via 5 carriers providing 37 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, AirTran 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 UPS.
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 overall cost-of-living index is 90.9 – roughly 9% below the national urban area average. Wichita metro 3rd Quarter 2012 median selling price of previously-owned single-family homes was $123,600, $62,500 or 34% below the national median price of $186,100. Wichita metro 3rd Quarter 2012 average sale price of newly-built single-family homes was $231,652 – $56,293 or 20% below the national figure of $287,945. Wichita’s 3rd Quarter 2012 average two-bedroom apartment rent was $660 – $221 or 25% lower than the national figure of $881. Wichita metro average one-way travel time to work is 18.7 minutes (26% shorter than national average.) Weather-related business disruption is very rare. CQ Press compiles its State Overall Livability Rankings annually. Kansas ranked 10th best in the 2010 rankings. 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. Kansas placed 15th in the CQ Press 2008 Healthiest State Rankings. Wichita had several accolades in 2007, including 2nd place ranking among mid-sized metros in Best Places for Relocating Families by Worldwide ERC-Primacy, and 2nd place in Most Affordable Markets to Own a Home by Bizjournals. Expansion Management included Wichita among Five Star Quality of Life Metros – their top ranking. In 2006, Money magazine listed Wichita as one of the Best Big Cities in the Nation to Live, and Kiplinger’s listed Wichita as one of the Top 40 Places to Live among cities that are fun, vibrant and affordable.