By LESLIE EIKLEBERRY
Great Plains Manufacturing, Inc., announced today a $53 million expansion project for its Salina operation.
Great Plains is a wholly owned subsidiary of Kubota North America Corporation.
The expansion will be into the current 750,000-square-foot Signify/Philips Lighting plant on South Ninth Street, which will close in the second quarter of 2021, Signify announced today. Currently, 159 people work in the Signify/Philips plant, the company told Salina Post this morning.
Great Plains plans to begin operations in the new facility by the end of 2021, and will utilize a phased approach.
"This facility, through renovations, the equipment needed to turn it into a suitable production facility for us, requires a $43 million investment. There will be an additional $10 million spent in startup costs, including training, for a total spend of about $53 million," Linda Salem, president and CEO of Great Plains Manufacturing, Inc., said during the announcement of the expansion.
Initially, Great Plains will plan to add approximately 130 new manufacturing jobs, Salem said. The size of the building on South Ninth Street will allow for future expansion as well, she said.
Salem said the products that will be made in the new facility are new to Great Plains, but not to Kubota.
"The initial product we will focus on will be the Kubota compact track loader called the SVL65," Salem said. "This product is manufactured in Japan today. Kubota's strategy is to move production closer to the market and the North American market is the No. 1 customer for this unit, so we are honored they have entrusted the manufacturing of this important product to Great Plains."
Salem said the building on South Ninth Street will be available to Great Plains in August of 2021.
"We anticipate that there will be full production the last quarter of 2022 with approximately 130 employees," Salem said.
Currently, Great Plains employs 1,450 people throughout Kansas, according to company information. The Salina announcement is the latest in a series of Midwest investments, including the most recent Great Plains' purchase of a 350,000-square-foot Abilene production facility, which opened earlier this year and further expands operations to produce Kubota and Land Pride branded products.
"We have a lot of people to thank for making this possible," Salem said. "The State of Kansas, and particularly the Kansas Department of Commerce, has worked closely with us to ensure that we understand and work with the many programs they have to encourage business development within our state. The Governor's Office, the Salina Economic Development Organization, the City of Salina staff and commissioners have been gracious and supportive of our continued expansion. We are really appreciative of your support."
Salem noted that Great Plains and the community are in partnership together.
"We cannot grow unless our community is healthy, provides a great place for people to not only work but also build their lives outside of work, raise their families, pursue their hobbies, and their recreational pursuits," Salem explained.
"Salina, through private investment, public investment, private and public partnerships has invested heavily in this community. The downtown renovation project, I believe, is over a $175 million investment so far. We have upgrading and expansion of soccer fields, baseball fields. We have strong support of the arts here in Salina. We have excellent regional medical facilities, impressive and up-to-date public school facilities. I think that Salina is an oasis in central Kansas," she continued. "All of these are essential to attracting and retaining great workers and community members, and Great Plains really prides itself on being a partner to such a great community."
A bright future despite mixed emotions
Salina Mayor Mike Hoppock told those assembled this morning that he has mixed emotions.
"As some of you may or may not know, the 750,000-square-foot building that Linda was talking about is the Signify plant, known by most people as Philips Lighting. Signify/Philip has been an important part of the Salina community for over 50 years. The announcement and loss of jobs due to the Signify closing could have been a serious blow to Saline County. I hope the citizens of Saline County understand the magnitude of the purchase and investment being made by Great Plains Manufacturing," Hoppock said.
"As I mentioned Monday at the Schwan's announcement, projects like these do not happen by accident," the mayor continued. "Because of the united efforts of the State of Kansas, the City of Salina, Salina Community Economic Development Organization, and the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, we were able to partner with Great Plains and secure a significant investment in our community and to keep a very large facility from going dark."
Kansas Secretary of Commerce David Toland noted that "Salina's having a big week!"
"It is wonderful to be back here for the second time in four days for a major economic development announcement, particularly because this has been a long time in the making. We are so grateful to Kubota and to Great Plains for seeing what we see here in Salina and this part of the state, which is opportunity," Toland said.
"This project, yes it does involve a transition with the Signify/Philips plant and we are sorry for that, but today we're focused on the future and a future that is bright for our manufacturing workforce here in Salina and in the region," he continued.
"The fact is that as the world faces a new normal, we believe that Kansas is extraordinarily well positioned to succeed and to prosper, particularly as it relates to focusing on supply chain," Toland said. "We want to send a message to any firm, any company that is evaluating what to do right now as it relates to onshoring. We want them to think about Kansas, because of our prime location, because of our reliable infrastructure, and most importantly because of our skilled workforce. It's our people that make the difference here in Kansas and so, you know, what you're going to get in our state is the highest quality, the best customer service, and the best people."
Although she wasn't there in person, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly offered her congratulations to Great Plains and Salina in a video that was played during the news conference.
"Great Plains Manufacturing is a stellar Kansas company and leading employer which has been recognized as a Governor's Exporter of the Year and has continued to make investments and expand its footprint throughout north-central Kansas over many years," Kelly said. "My administration is committed to growing a strong relationship between Kubota, Great Plains Manufacturing, and the State of Kansas, and we're excited about this new, significant investment in Salina. It is a testament to Great Plains strong leadership team and quality employees that Kubota has chosen this location for their continued growth in the North American market."