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10 Years In Review: 2006-2016

10 Years In Review: 2006-2016

New businesses have come to Topeka, others have left, and many have seen significant growth. It would be impossible to include all the business news of Topeka over the past 10 years, but the next few pages will include many of the highlights.

A number of significant decisions were a result of the quarter-cent sales tax that began in 2003 and later turned into a half-cent tax in 2005. This tax is for the purpose of economic development, and the building of roads and bridges. Go Topeka and the Joint Economic Development Organization (JEDO) work together to distribute the tax dollars in order to entice outside companies to move to Topeka and local companies to stay.

Go Topeka, Shawnee County and the city of Topeka worked together to offer Target a 143-acre site valued at $1.5 million and paid for by the economic sales tax. In addition to the land, the city provided a $1.5 million road and property tax exemption for 10 years.

In 2008, Target’s property tax exemption was extended to 2017 as part of a new agreement after employment at the facility dropped below 650. The Target Distribution Center is still hiring today.

The Central Crossing Commerce Park has since become home to two other employers, Home Depot Rapid Deployment Center and Allen Foods. Home Depot, which built its $28 million distribution facility in 2010, now employs more than 200 people.

Allen Foods built its 135,000-square-foot production facility shortly after in 2011. Allen Foods manufactures bakery products like Oroweat breads and Thomas bagels and brought 52 new jobs to Topeka.

Security Benefit Group of Companies, Inc. created subsidiary se2 , Inc., a third party administrator providing technology service to the life and annuity insurance industries, in 2005. se2 has grown to more than 600 employees and plans to hire 200 more.

In May 2016, JEDO approved the incentive grant for up to $1,000,000, not to exceed $200,000 per year to provide training and development for existing se2 employees and up to 200 new employees.

Another successful growth story for Topeka is Advisors Excel. Coowners David Callanan, Cody Foster, and Derek Thompson formed Advisors Excel, an Insurance Marketing Organization, in 2005. Since then it has grown by leaps and bounds, expanding from five employees to 320 and growing revenue from $45 million to almost $4 billion.

In 2013, the company moved to the old Marlings Home Furnishings Building at 2950 SW McClure Road to accommodate its record growth.

In June of 2016, Alorica acquired Expert Global Solutions and has been hiring all summer to meet client demand. They expect to grow to approximately 600 employees this year.

While Frito-Lay has been in Topeka for more than 40 years, in 2007 the company took advantage of available half-cent sales tax dollars and expanded its plant to include the production of SunChips, adding 75 new jobs. At that time Allen Moore, director of engineering, said that the Topeka facility was the fastest-growing in the company since 2004.

Kaw Area Technical School became affiliated with Washburn University in 2008 and became Washburn Institute of Technology. Since Dean Clark Coco came on board in 2012, Washburn Tech has seen a 44 percent increase in the school’s enrollment.

According to Foresight 2020 Progress Report January 2016, Washburn Tech’s graduation rate tops the chart among Kansas post-secondary institutions and has a placement rate of 94 percent.

2009 brought the closing of a long time employer, Payless Distribution Center, which had been in Topeka since 1956. The closing of Payless Distribution Center eliminated around 500 jobs.

That same year, Topeka also said goodbye to a 100-year-old downtown Topeka business. Hillmer's Luggage, Leather & Gifts, opened in 1896 and was one of the oldest retail stores in downtown Topeka.

Heartland Visioning was created in 2008 to collaboratively work with organizations, businesses, government and individuals on improving economic development and overall quality of life. In 2009, Heartland Visioning began the conversation about revitalizing Topeka's downtown business district.

Downtown renovations began in 2014, with street and infrastructure improvements funded by the city. A $3.4 million investment by private donors funded pocket parks and visual improvements above the street.

NOTO also began talks about revitalization in 2009. Barbara Waterman-Peters was the first core artist to establish her studio space at 831 N. Kansas in 2010, and now the area is home to 36 new businesses, more than 30 artists and around 2,000 people that attend the First Friday Art Walk Events.

In 2012, Josten’s moved its production work from Topeka to Clarksville, Tennessee. The Topeka plant had been located in Topeka since 1969 and, at one point, had employed more than 1,100 people. When Jostens left, it kept 87 jobs in Topeka for marketing, customer service and technical support, but 372 jobs were eliminated with its move.

Another big loss for Topeka was Hallmark Cards, Inc. In 2013 Hallmark had three Kansas facilities and employed around 1,300 - 500 in Topeka, 500 in Lawrence and 300 in Leavenworth. Hallmark closed its plant in Topeka and moved production to its Lawrence location.

In December 2015, Moore D. M. Group purchased Southwest Publishing & Mailing. Then in June 2016, the Moore D. M. Group purchased the Hallmark building to expand its envelope operation and fulfillment services, adding 80 to 100 employees this year.

MARS Chocolate North America officially opened in Topeka in 2014, employing more than 200 people at its 500,000-squarefoot facility located off of SW Montara Parkway and Topeka Boulevard. According to Bret Spangler, Mars Chocolate North America Site Director, the Topeka plant was the company’s first new plant in 35 years and was built with expansion in mind. In 2015, Mars announced a $100 million expansion that would create 70 new jobs.

In January 2013, Topeka teamed up with United Airlines and began offering two flights daily to Chicago O’Hare International Airport from Topeka Regional Airport located at Forbes Field. The flights held 50 people and cost the same as a ticket from the Kansas City International Airport. Unfortunately, the flights were well below capacity for United Airlines, and they stopped services in September 2014.

The Southwest side of town has seen plenty of development over the past 10 years as well. In 2012, the Helping Hands Humane Shelter moved its business from North Topeka, where it had been since the 1950s, to an old Dillons Grocery Store building on 21st Street. HHHS raised $7.2 million from individuals and businesses allowing it to move into the new site debt free.

Hy-Vee Grocery Store opened its doors at 29th and Wanamaker in 2008.

The construction of Crosswinds Commons shopping area in 2014 added 250 new jobs and included: Academy Sports+Outdoors, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, Orscheln Farm and Home, Pie Five Pizza Co., Five Guys Burgers and Fries, McAlister's Deli and Sleep Number.

Topeka businesses have seen their share of highs and lows over the past 10 years. With revitalization efforts, increased opportunities for growth, and an invigorated business community, Topeka is sure to see many more victories and successes in the future.


  • TK Magazine was founded by Kevin Doel and Jason Hull.


  • Greg Fox renovated a historic rowhouse and opened RowHouse Restaurant at 515 SW Van Buren Street.

  • Alorica Inc., a customer service call company, made its debut.

  • Frito-Lay expanded its plant to include the production of SunChips, adding 75 new jobs


  • Hy-Vee Grocery Store opened.

  • Target's property tax exemption was extended to 2017.

  • Kaw Area Technical School became affiliated with Washburn Unversity and became Washburn Tech.

  • Heartland Visioning was formed.


  • Payless Distribution Center closes.

  • The 800,000-squarefoot Payless Distribution Center was purchased by homegrown Topekabased business PTMW, Inc.

  • Martin Tractor Co., a family-owned business operating in Topeka since 1928, was sold to Foley Equipment Co. based in Wichita.

  • Hillmer's Luggage, Leather & Gifts closes, one of the oldest retail stores in downtown Topeka.

  • E2 Communications acquired TK Business Magazine.

  • NOTO began talks about revitalization.


  • The Guggenheim Partners-led investor group invested $400 million to acquire Topeka-based Security Benefit.

  • First year of the Top 20 Under 40 Awards by the Jayhawk Area Council Boy Scouts.

  • Kansas Super Chief Credit Union changed its name to Envista Credit Union.

  • Credit Union 1 of Kansas and Credit Unions United consolidated to become Quest Credit Union.

  • HOLA Cards, a division of Nos Vemos Greetings of Topeka partnered with Snapfish to sell greeting cards, photo cards and notebooks on Snapfish.com.

  • The Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce/ GO Topeka and MAMTC, along with partners Washburn University, the National Growth Through Innovation Foundation and Eureka! Ranch were awarded $500,000 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (NIST-MEP) as part of a $1.1 million project to promote innovation and competitiveness in Topeka and Shawnee County.

  • Capitol Federal Financial converted from a mutual holding company to a stock form of organization.

  • Home Depot built its $28 million distribution facility.


  • Owners of Ed Bozarth Chevrolet purchased Bill Kobach Buick GMC and moved inventory to the Ed Bozarth Chevrolet dealership in Topeka.

  • Newcomer Funeral Service Group purchased Mount Hope Cemetery.

  • Westar Energy opened the William E. Brown Professional Development Center in North Topeka. The training center has classrooms and equipment to train field employees, power plan personnel and other skilled craft positions.

  • MARS Chocolate North America broke ground on its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Topeka—the first new chocolate site built in the U.S. in 35 years. The facility was a $270 million investment and brought 200 jobs to the area.

  • Westar Energy opened Topeka’s first electric vehicle charging station at the corner of 8th & Kansas.


  • Waste Management expanded to create the Materials Recovery Facility. The $8 million, 30,000-squarefoot facility takes all recyclable items and separates them for further distribution to end-use manufacturers.

  • Capitol Federal headquarters underwent an $18 million makeover.

  • Service Master took over ownership of Schendel Pest Services.

  • The shopping center at SW 17th & Wanamaker, home of Kohl’s and Barnes & Noble was sold for $11.75 million.

  • Josten's moved its production work from Topeka to Clarksville, Tennessee.


  • Strathman Sales Co. expanded into its new 59,000-square-foot facility at 4235 SW Burlingame to provide more space to add additional products such as craft beers.

  • ISG Technology opened a new 12,000-squarefoot facility that houses both a 10,000-squarefoot data center and ISG’s local Topeka operations.

  • The Midwest Training Center for Climate and Energy Control Technologies (MTC) located on Washburn Tech’s campus opened its classroom doors looking to address the gap between education and industry workforce needs by incorporating advanced training and updating equipment to reflect the technological innovation in the HVAC industry

  • Washburn University School of Business began offering a Master in Accountancy (MAcc) degree.

  • Bryan University in Topeka completed construction of new 6,500-square-foot HVAC training facility.

  • A fire started by faulty wiring in the ceiling destroyed the production area and the entire west half of WestSide Stamp & Awards (reopened in 2014).

  • Advisors Excel renovated and moved to the old Marlings Home Furnishing Buildings.

  • Hallmark closed its Topeka plant and moved production to its Lawrence location.

  • Topeka Regional Airport partnered with United Airlines to offer flights to Chicago.


  • Compressed natural gas fueling station opened at 5626 SW Wenger Street, a result of a partnership between Questar Fueling, Topeka, Clean Cities and Frito Lay.

  • Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Washburn University broke ground on a $55 million forensic lab on the college’s campus.

  • Westar Energy and Topeka Public Schools partner to create the Topeka Public Schools’ Kansas Education and Science Park that supports STEM curriculum.

  • Failure of an electrical branch circuit in the ceiling ignited when the baker at Pizagels turned on the exhaust system, closing the restaurant for over a year

  • Washburn University School of Business announced new concentrations for their Bachelor of Business Administration program: International Business and Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

  • Crosswinds Commons, located at SW Wanamaker and 11th, was developed by David Christie of Christie Development Associates in Overland Park. The City Council voted to make the area a community improvement district that would reimburse the $22.6 million investment through a one percent tax imposed on sales for businesses in the Crosswinds Commons development. Crosswinds Commons created over 250 jobs and includes: Academy Sports + Outdoors, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, Orscheln Farm and Home, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, McAlister’s Deli, Pie Five Pizza Co. and Sleep Number.

  • Make-It Lab, a makerspace room in the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library opened.

  • Soave Automotive Group acquired Sunflower Motors in Topeka, A BMW and Volkswagen dealership. (MAYBE $20 million)

  • AmeriPride Services selected the Topeka branch to participate in an alternative fuel pilot program. The Topeka AmeriPride facility purchased five ROUSH CleanTech Ford F-59 delivery trucks that run solely on propane autogas and installed a private propane autogas station to service the vehicles.

  • United Airlines stopped services through Topeka Regional Airport.


  • 712 Innovation, a 5,000-square-foot facility that combines a makerspace and coworking space opened in Downtown Topeka.

  • Topeka Metro Bikes available to the community

  • The owners of Top City Soda Pop and HHB BBQ watched helplessly as the building that housed both businesses at 720 S. Kansas Avenue disintegrated to ash. HHB BBQ moved down to 906 S. Kansas Avenue and Top City Soda Pop found a home at Forbes Field.

  • Mars announced that it would invest an additional $100 million to add a 90,000-square-foot facility to the Topeka site. The expansion creates more than 70 additional jobs.

  • Blind Tiger expansion added a cold room and 12 more steel tanks in an adjacent building, increasing their brewing capacity by 40%.


  • Educational Credit Union and Quest Credit Union merged to become Azura Credit Union.

  • Simon Property Group sold West Ridge Mall and West Ridge Plaza and Out Lots to WP Glimcher Inc.

  • Robuck Jewelers, a North Topeka staple, closed after being in business since 1997.

  • Alorica acquired Expert Global Solutions and expects to grow to approximately 600 employees this year.

  • Moore D. M. Group purchased the Hallmark building. The expansion comes just six months after purchasing Southwest Publishing & Mailing.

A Century of Investing in Downtown: Briman's Leading Jewelers

A Century of Investing in Downtown: Briman's Leading Jewelers