Sixty miles east of Topeka lies Kansas City, a true transportation hub of particular interest to anyone in the food distribution industry. Kansas City is one of few U.S. cities with three intersecting interstate highways: I--70, I--29 and I--35. The city is also a bustling rail hub, with service from five Class 1 railroads operating 300 daily freight arrivals and departures.
"The city is fast becoming a major player in the international trade corridor for the flow of goods not only throughout the country, but to Mexico and Canada as well," says Greg Kindle, president of Southwest Johnson County Economic Development.
Eleven regulated barge lines service Kansas City on the Missouri River and Kansas City International Airport is one of the nation’s largest airport Foreign Trade Zones. Kansas City’s New Century Air Center is a key contact point for anyone in the food industry looking to serve major metropolitan areas through distribution and logistics projects, says Kindle.
New Century is particularly well suited for companies in the food industry and hosts a number of food manufacturers already, with room to grow.
New Century Air Center is located in a 2,300--acre industrial park with easy access to interstates, an airport and rail service. "It has its own rail switching capabilities and sits on the BNSF mainline, which connects us to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where a lot of food products are shipped from," Kindle says.
Currently, Unilever Best Foods, Danisco, CFS West Foods and Kerry Sweet Ingredients are among some of the food companies located in the park. "Unilever, which makes I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and Country Crock, can ship its products anywhere in the country from here within one or two days by truck," Kindle says. "In fact, Unilever is the only margarine facility in North America that has the room to expand operations because of the acreage we have available here. We can also enhance our rail capabilities in any way to meet the needs of any company that might want to locate here."
Three other key issues for food manufacturers and processors are the availability of potable water, excellent sewage capabilities and affordable electricity. "There are parts of the country that don’t have these capabilities and, even though they might have the land, workforce and the other necessary components, if you don’t have good water it will be tough for these companies," Kindle says. He adds the existing food companies continue to attract other companies involved in the food supply chain.
The area also supports a lot of cold storage and frozen storage warehousing space, says Chris Gutierrez, president of Kansas City SmartPort. "Throughout our region we have about 15 major DCs for food--related products," Gutierrez says. He adds Tyson Foods operates a 450,000--square--foot refrigerated and frozen warehouse and Sysco Foods has a 500,000--square--foot DC in the area. ADM and ConAgra also operate food manufacturing facilities here. "We are literally a bread basket center, with our region leading the nation in corn, wheat, soybean and other agricultural production."
Kindle points out that the State of Kansas is an Enterprise Zone, offering tax credits for qualifying businesses. For example, CFS Foods took advantage of a five--year 50--percent local tax abatement to help get its facility operating. "They also receive a number of training grants for their employees from the state," he says.
New Century Air Center operates through a land--lease model. "We are talking about a lease that is about 14 cents a square foot and that’s less than most of our neighboring communities in development fees," continues Kindle. Since it’s a long--term commitment, a company does not have to take out a lot of debt and land--leases are considered operational costs, so it goes right to the bottom line, Kindle says. d
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"This is a great location for us because of our proximity to I--35 for north--south transportation and I--70 for east--west transportation," says Ian Ricketts, plant manager for Unilever Foods North America located in the New Century Air Center in Kansas City. "Since the vast majority of our distribution is by truck, this is an excellent location for us."