Top economic development projects create $64 million in investment in five years

Apr. 5—During the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce bi-monthly board meeting Thursday, the Economic Development Commission announced that the top six economic development projects in Junction City, Geary County have created a total of $64 million in investment in the past five years.

Over those five years, the city and county provided a total of $1,414,104 in funding to the EDC, leaving $62,585,896 after subtracting city and county funding.

"This gives our partners, the city and county, a $44.26 return on investment for every dollar contributed," Mickey Fornaro-Dean, Economic Development director, reported at the meeting. "And this is a dollar for dollar return after subtracting funding."

To research the return on investment, the EDC chose the six projects with the most impact to Junction City and Geary County over five years, representing the largest percentage of investment.

Fornaro-Dean said the EDC has worked with such a large number of projects over the past five years that the staff decided to choose the six top projects instead to trying to go through the massive amount of data to determine the ROI of all the projects in that time frame.

In total the six projects represent 245 new jobs at an average wage of $20 per hour. Over five years, that averages out to almost 50 new jobs per year with the potential payroll of $50 million per year. Fornaro-Dean said this represents reused or new industrial or commercial space of 387,500 square feet or an average of 77,500 square feet per year. She would not reveal the identities of the six companies.

"These projects reflect a solid beginning to economic growth in Junction City/Geary County," EDC staff wrote.

During the meeting, Fornaro-Dean highlighted some of the work the commission did in 2021 to lead the city into more development. Some of the highlights include working with local partners to secure a place in the KDOT IKE Program for the creation of the new Taylor Road interchange, submitting a proposal to the state for a new VA facility, announcing and starting to sign soldiers up for the Junction for Military/Civilian Innovation Project and assisting in the sale of the Perry Street building to Fairview Junction, LLC, which will create jobs and investment.

Although the EDC could not reveal specifics on many of the projects the commission is working on currently, staff handed out a "prospect report" of active, open and closed projects and some notes on each, as well as a type designation.

Three known projects on the list include Hildebrand Farms, a veteran's home and an unnamed project, which The Junction City Union determined is the meat-packing plant.

Hildebrand Farms reached out to the Junction City Geary County EDC in February to look for information and support for the company's new potential direction. In March, the company gave the EDC permission to use its name publicly.

Hildebrand Farms is working on an expansion for robotic milkers, which also involves agrotourism. The company is working with the EDC and Geary County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The EDC learned in May 2021 that the state was looking at a placement for a new veteran's home. In October, a request for proposal was submitted. The EDC reported there is no timeframe for review of the RFP as of yet.

The EDC began conversations for "Project Rug," in October 2020, after the company reached out about whether Junction City/Geary County was a fit for the potential project, according to the notes.

The Junction City Union discovered the nature of the project (meatpacking plant) and the company associated with it (Foote Cattle Company) at a community meeting in December, when Commissioner Trish Giordano was asked by community members what company was proposing a meatpacking plant, and she said, "the Footes."

The company visited sites in the area in November 2020. The EDC and company met over the course of the year to talk about details of the potential project and responsibilities. In May 2021, a "large working group" was involved in discussions of project needs.

In August, Fornaro-Dean met with state leadership for updates and noted that "there is considerable support." In October, the EDC noted that city and county leadership and the company were communicating about next steps in the project.

In December, the notes state that the entities were continuing conversations, however, "there is still considerable due diligence being conducted on both sides."

The latest update for March this year includes that the company, city, county and EDC are continuing to do their due diligence to determine whether the project is a good fit for the community.

"City and EDC continue to move forward on the infrastructure requirements, as regardless of whether the due diligence works out for the project, the infrastructure is critical for the future growth of this community," the final notes read.

Three projects listed on the prospect report were marked as closed for various reasons. The first one referred to a manufacturing company looking for a short-term lease. The project was closed after the EDC found no space available that met the specifications given. The second project, listed as manufacturing, was closed because the area didn't qualify for it. The third project, also listed as manufacturing, was closed because Junction City could not provide the water requirements of the project.

The next JCACC Board of Directors meeting will be held May 26 at 3:30 p.m. at the JCACC office at 222 W. 6th St.