JoCo on the Go Podcast: New economic development takes off at New Century Commerce Center

On JoCo on the Go episode #136, we take you to the ground breaking for the New Century Commerce Center. You’ll get to see key leaders (including Governor Laura Kelly and Chairman Ed Eilert), construction and design partners and county staff turn some ceremonial dirt, as well as hear from them on plans for this project and the economic development impact it will have on Johnson County and the state of Kansas. We apologize for the video quality in some sections due to lighting issues.

JoCo on the Go Webcast: New Century Commerce Center

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Time Subject
00:21 Introduction
00:56 The benefits of development at the New Century Commerce Center
02:40 The development of a public-private partnership with VanTrust
07:14 Introducing Governor Laura Kelly
09:52 What New Century Commerce Center brings to the state
14:22 A historic moment for the airport and for Johnson County


Jody Hanson 00:00

After several years in the making, a groundbreaking ceremony has officially kicked off construction at the New Century Commerce Center.

Announcer 00:08

Whether you live in or just love Johnson County Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Jody Hanson 00:21

Thank you for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host, Jody Hanson, a Johnson County government employee and resident of Johnson County. I'm standing here at the new century commerce Center. On May 17, ceremonial dirt was turned over to celebrate this economic development partnership expected to bring thousands of new jobs to Johnson County

Aaron Otto 00:51

Aaron, A-a-r-o-n, Last Name Otto, O-t-t-o.

Reporter 00:54

Your position with Johnson County?

Aaron Otto 00:56

Executive Director of the Johnson County Airport Commission. So this is the next big step for economic development at our airports in Johnson County. And the reason that's important to Johnson County airports is because that helps fund the airport operations and capital infrastructure. So this is unlocking about 850 acres worth of future development at New Century, both on the northeast side of the runway and on that runway, east and north. And that brings expected about 4700 new jobs, over 9 million square foot buildings to be erected in future. This is phase one of the infrastructure. That's the first big step in making that all possible. This has been farmland ever since the time of 150 years ago. In terms of initial settling, and what we're looking forward to is that that sets it up for being developed for vertical construction. And we expect to warehouse distribution buildings to be built in a spec basis. And then coming here on that land and more to follow. It's really difficult for each year airport, a general aviation airport to be financially self-sufficient. And there's only a handful in the United States that have accomplished that: the two in Johnson County from 2005 to 2020, were able to do that. This will help generate new revenues in order for us to try to remain off the tax rolls and self-sufficient we're still part of the county government. But because of the ground rents for buildings like this, running a railroad, running the water system and other fee for services. We've been able to keep the airport, with supported federal grants, self-sufficient its operations. It's just exciting to see us get to this point today after seven years of working on this and so many people coming together. The big thing is it is a unique private/public partnership. The county had the land, but the development experience from the outside private sector will help really turn this over so that we can unlock the economic potential of this land to create revenues for the airport, create jobs. It's a win for everybody all around. It was a P-3 public private partnership. Between 4200 and 4700 jobs is estimated long term in addition to construction jobs.

Rich Muller 02:40

My name is Rich Muller. I head up the Kansas City office for VanTrust real estate. Today is it's about a public and private partnership between people that are equally committed to the responsible stewardship of valuable public assets, increasing the county's commercial tax base, and an entrepreneurial vision for generating a significant and durable revenue stream for the New Century Air Center in Johnson County Executive airports. This vision involves putting into production a total of nearly 850 acres of airport property that has been identified as not necessary for airport operations and has been approved by the FAA for non-aviation use. This land is planned to be developed in four phases, totaling roughly 9 million square feet of vertical development, that is projected to generate roughly $170 million a year in payroll. Now, we can all see that the land here is well located it was pretty easy to get to today. But as it sits, it's not quite ready for primetime. It still lacks a few of the things that are necessary to support vertical development, things like roads, water, sewer, electricity, those sorts of things. So today, when we talk about the project, what we're really talking about is a 15 plus or minus million-dollar public infrastructure project that will support the first phase of the New Century Commerce Center, which will include in this first phase, about 2.8 million square feet of vertical development on roughly 150 of the 850 total acres. Okay. So you may be asking yourself, that's great, Rich, it's not about VanTrust, why are you still talking? Well, we're here today because after a competitive four-year public selection process and another two years of intense collaboration with the county to refine their vision, we stand here aligned with the county as true believers in the potential that the New Century Commerce Center has to be to be a significant employment center and a multimodal logistics hub here in Kansas City. We're here because we believe in our hearts that this is absolutely the right project in the right place at the right time. And it's not just VanTrust thinking this way. We're hearing from the brokerage community, that when it comes to industrial users entering the market, that if the requirement is looking at the Kansas City region, the New Century Commerce Center is now a part of that conversation. So with the infrastructure work well underway behind us, and based on the current market dynamics, VanTrust is gearing up to break ground on nearly 1.1 million square feet of new speculative office, speculative industrial buildings that we anticipate delivering by the second quarter of next year. So with that everybody in this tent knows that projects like this, and achievements of this magnitude are not easy, and they're not ever done alone. Today, groundbreaking is a direct result of the Johnson County leadership's coming together across multiple agencies and staffs to do something unique for the benefit of their constituents. And with that in mind, I'd like to take just a couple of minutes to thank the folks whose leadership, collaboration and can-do attitudes have brought us to this moment. Chairman Ed Eilert, Johnson County Board of County Commissioners, past and current Board of County Commissioners that's how long we've been at this Penny Postoak Ferguson, county manager, Chairman Brad Weisenberger, Johnson County Airport commission, Jay Leipzig, county planning director, Sean Pendley deputy county planning director, Brian Pietig, director of Johnson County Public Works, Susan Pekarek, general manager Johnson County Wastewater, Scott Neufeld Johnson County bureau chief and budget director Cindy Dunham, Deputy Director of county legal department and there's one other name on this list that I want to call attention to and that is Mr. Aaron Otto, Executive Director Johnson County Airport commission. Truth be told, Eric and I have been locked in a cage match for about the last six years on this project. And while some days were better than others, one thing that I can say day in day out no matter the issue, Aaron acted as a consummate professional, always holding the county's best interests at heart. And it's been a real pleasure for me to work with him. And so with that, I'd like all of your help in applauding these dedicated professionals. So now it's my honor to introduce our next speaker whose leadership throughout this process has been nothing short of steadfast Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, Mr. Ed Eilert.

Ed Eilert 07:14

Thank you very much. And thank you for coming and joining with us in this groundbreaking celebration this morning. I want to introduce a few people who are here this morning, my fellow Commissioners, Shirley Allenbrand sixth district commissioner, vice chair of the commission as well as liaison to the airport commission, Becky Fast, district number one, Jeff Myers district number two. And I hope I...did somebody else come in? I did not see. Well, thank you for being here and supporting this project. Governor Kelly, thank you for being here this morning. I want to say a special thank you to our airport commission under the leadership of Aaron Otto and Brad for the great work that they've that they've been able to accomplish developing a partnership with VanTrust. You know, one of the changes. When I... when I stepped down as mayor and came to the county commission, one of the things I really missed was economic development. And even though we had residential development occurring in the unincorporated part of the county, we really didn't have the opportunity to engage in this kind of economic development project. And I'm so glad to be involved in this project. I think just my judgment, and I could be wrong. But this project is going to how should I say this take off and be much in great demand than what we originally thought when we begin to plan this opportunity. And it will provide direct economic benefit to our county to the communities that are nearby Olathe, Gardner, Edgerton and support the economic opportunities for generations to come. So for all of the good work of those who have developed this public private partnership, thank you for your commitment to our county and to our community. And at this time, I'd like to introduce our governor of the great State of Kansas Governor Laura Kelly.

Gov. Laura Kelly 09:52

Okay, good morning, everybody. It really is my pleasure to be here in Johnson County this morning. As we break ground on this significant expansion of the New Century Commerce Center. I know many people, many of you have been discussed already have helped make this center a reality, but not least of all, Ed Eilert. Thank you for making today possible. We're standing at the site of what is already one of the largest multi-tenant business parks in the metro region. Over 60 multinational companies have a home here at New Century. With this expansion, 9 million square feet will be available for more companies to grow and start their businesses here. They'll bring an estimated 4700 permanent jobs and 3500 construction jobs over the next 16 years. That's more than 8000 jobs being created in our state, employing Kansas and attracting talent. There's a reason these companies are coming to Kansas, what was once seen as a liability, being in the center of the country, is now recognized as one of our state's greatest strengths. There is no doubt that Kansas is the ideal place to foster supply chain success. Here in the heart of the country, and particularly here in Johnson County. We bring together air, rail and road to meet consumer demands it make Logistics and Distribution possible, either beyond location or excellent infrastructure and strong workforce by Kansas second to none, when it comes to getting products where they need to be both quickly and efficiently. And don't just take it from me. You just have to look at the numbers to see that Kansas has become one of the best places in the nation to do business. For back to back years, Kansas has attracted the most capital investment by businesses in the history of our state. Since the start of my administration, economic development projects have created and retain more than 32,000 jobs, and have attracted nearly $9 billion of investment into the Kansas economy. As a result, we've won the coveted gold shovel and the 2021 governor's cut for the most business investment per capita of any state in the nation. Our new way of doing business is paying off and we're not done yet. To keep us on course, the Kansas framework for growth, our state's comprehensive economic development strategic plan is built around our key economic strengths. Among other goals, it provides a blueprint for us to solidify our state's leadership as a 21st century hub for advanced manufacturing, food processing, Logistics and Distribution. Buffering work is focused on leveraging the strengths to spur new growth in Kansas for decades to come. We are so pleased to have new century be part of that exciting future, and grateful for committed public private partnerships that drive economic growth and business investment across our state. By continuing to work together, we can build a brighter and more prosperous future for all of us who call Kansas home. Thank you. Thank you.

Aaron Otto 13:42

Thank you, Governor. Before I introduce our last speaker of the day, I do want to make a special acknowledgement. And that is my predecessor that's here. Lee Metcalfe somewhere hiding in the background. There you are, Lee. Let's give a round of applause. He was the airport director for 23 years and after only going through six, I'm amazed at how you made it. So congratulations on that feat. But Lee helped set so much of the framework for what we're able to do here today. So I'm very honored that you're with us. It's my pleasure to introduce our last speaker before we dig some dirt and that's Brad Weisenburger the chair of the airport commission. Good morning, everyone.

Brad Weisenburger 14:22

I'm Brad Weisenburger. The chairman the airport commission. One thing that I wanted to emphasize you've heard a lot of thank yous and a lot of people that have been involved. This has been a fantastic opportunity, a lot of hard work a lot of thoughts and spreadsheets and chalkboard discussions and all sorts of information. Back of napkin meetings and working on how can we do this. And this really kind of boils down to the airports, the Johnson County airports Executive and New Century, that was self sufficient for many years. We didn't take any tax revenues to operate. And as we were looking at the growth and the potential growth for the east side, we wanted to keep that established, we wanted to be able to always carry that banner of saying we're one of the few airports in the country that that is not subsidized by the general fund of the governing body. And that was always our goal. When we thought about, how are we going to do this, we're gonna move to the east side of the airport, we have to purchase property, there's no roads, there's no water, there's no sewer, how are we going to make this work. And that's where working with VanTrust and going through that process. Working with the county manager's office and the support that we received from the Board of County Commissioners, everybody believed we could do it, we didn't know how we were going to do it, but we knew we could. And as we started getting a little more momentum a little more chipping away at the project, we could say this is gonna work we can get there. And sure enough, today we've made that step. And as you can see, the ground is being moved and there's a million cubic yards of earth that are going to need to be disturbed and flattened. And we operate our railroad a shortline railroad, a water utility. So we've got a lot of moving parts and I really have to thank Aaron Otto for his ability to manage all these things, to manage all the airport commissioners' ideas and thoughts and, and everything that had to come into play for this to happen. So this really is a historic moment for the airport and Johnson County. Thank you, everyone.

Jody Hanson 16:31

To recap some of the next steps for this project. Construction is set to begin on approximately $15 million worth of infrastructure, such as streets, water, stormwater, streetlights, utilities and wastewater. Work will begin on two spec buildings totaling more than 1 million square feet of available space. They're located at the southwest corner of 159th Street and 56 Highway with direct access to Interstate 35. You can stay up to date on this project by visiting our website and following our social media platforms. Thanks for listening and watching this episode of JoCo on the Go.

Announcer 17:14

You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast visit Thanks for listening.

Airport Commission
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