Joe Pennington and Curtis Sneden outside the Making Kansas busThe Making Kansas Bus Tour made a stop in Topeka to hear about the state of the manufacturing industry. Curtis Sneden and Joe Pennington wowed the group of industry leaders and advocates from across the state. The monthlong event, sponsored by the Kansas Manufacturing Council, highlights the state’s manufacturing industry and career opportunities.

Mr. Sneden, president of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, said “Although the capital city is correctly regarded as a government hub, the manufacturing sector is poised to take over as an economic engine.” He shared information showing 12,000 people in Shawnee County work in public administration, while 11,500 have jobs in manufacturing and distribution.

Joe P on Stage with Spiral Chute Cropped Square“Over the last decade, food manufacturing grew here by more than 5% annually,” he reported. “Expect that growth to accelerate because of our competitive advantage of central location and work ethic.”

At Stevenson Company, tour participants saw examples of innovation on the shop floor. Mr. Pennington demonstrated their flagship product, which is a spiral chute that transfers food from one conveyor to another inside industrial plants. “These are high end pieces of food handling equipment because of the intense craftsmanship that goes into building each one. Every weld you see here is done by a skilled hand. Our average tenure is about twenty years. I feel blessed to be surrounded by such talent.”

Mr. Pennington said manufacturers are actively dealing with supply chain issues, even as labor shortages are being addressed effectively. “Meeting others in the industry has been inspiring. Coming in, I thought we could all commiserate. Instead, we are collaborating. Similar businesses are adapting to challenges in creative ways. One fabricator has partnered with Leavenworth Correctional Facility to train welders for their operation. A vineyard in western Kansas brings in people with developmental disabilities to make wine. How uplifting is that!”

Alan Cobb, president of Kansas Chamber, said manufacturing jobs bring good wages and quality of life to communities. “Manufacturing workers earn $75,000 per year. Compare that to $46,000 in non-manufacturing jobs.”

“The Kansas manufacturing industry is responsible for more than 16% of our state’s total economic output,” said Mr. Cobb, “and employs more than 165,000 Kansans. Still, many in our state do not realize the impact the industry has on their communities. We are excited to visit dozens of manufacturers and showcase the many types of products made in Kansas.”

Transcript of video:

What the Kansas Manufacturing Council does is advocate on behalf of Kansas manufacturing. We connect manufacturing with elected officials and educational leaders and provide networking opportunities.

The goal of the 2021 bus tour is to raise awareness of the state’s manufacturing industry and great career opportunities. This is the first time we’ve done that. If you didn’t see the bus, it’s right across the street. It looks very cool. Other stops include Atchison, Burlington, Dodge City, Emporia, Great Bend, Hutchinson, Leavenworth, Olathe, Pratt, Topeka, and then a one day stop in Wichita in October.

Kansas manufacturing helps drive the economy with over 8 billion in manufactured goods that are exported. Our top countries Kansas exports to are Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, and South Korea. Manufacturing - depending on how you slice up the economy – could be the largest part of the Kansas economy or the second largest. There are over 2,500 manufacturers. Manufacturing employs over a 157,000 people which is almost 12% of the workforce.

So you get to the average compensation. Manufacturing in Kansas almost $75,000 per year. Non-manufacturing $46,000. Pretty big difference.

Manufacturing accounts for 16% of the state output. The total economy was about $28 billion dollars in 2019.

Largest Manufacturers in TopekaAccording to Mr. Sneden, the largest manufacturers in Topeka, in order of headcount, are Goodyear Tire, Reser's Fine Foods, Frito-Lay/Pepsico, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Target Distribution, JM Smucker, and Mars.