Rotary Club of Emporia

Kent Heermann, Regional Development Association

Posted by Jim Wayman on Aug 08, 2017
Rotarian Kent Heermann, President of the Regional Development Association of East-Central Kansas, has been in Emporia at the RDA since July 1993. He explained about the history of the RDA, and the RDA's role in economic development in the Emporia area for many years. A city half-cent tax was voted in place in 1994 with a ten-year sunset for the purpose of land acquisition, land improvement, and the funding of the RDA to make our community more successful in recruiting new industry. Since then the tax has repeatedly been re-instituted by a wide margin of votes. The results have been undeniably successful. In 1993 the average wage for production workers was $5.57-$5.74, and today it is $16.44. In 1950, Emporia population was 15,669. In 2010, it was $24,916. Twenty-three manufacturing plants have chosen to call Emporia home. 
Retail recruitment has been more active since 2006 due to the economic downturn in our country. The result is a new Hobby Lobby that opened in August.
Kent provided some of the past code names for potential plants used for plants looking for a new home:
  • Taho - Caterpillar
  • Sweetness - Mars Candy plant that located in Topeka (2013)
  • Sleeve - Chinese sausage casing company (2012)
  • J.T. - Menards that located in Lawrence (2015)
  • Block - Fertilizer plant
  • Jacob - Hill's Pet Nutrition that invested $200 million in Emporia and hires 200 workers (2007)
What are the challenges facing Emporia's future recruiting efforts? 
  • Labor availability, especially for entry-level workers
  • Public transportation
  • Housing availability, especially for the high-end home