South-central Kansas is looked at as the current air capital of the world, but Gov. Sam Brownback doesn't take that reputation for granted. He said in order to remain the "air capital," Kansas will have to develop new aviation technology and keep pushing forward into the future.

He sees ABI Chemicals as part of that future. The company had a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for a new aerospace coating plant at the Newton City/County Airport.

"It won't be (the air capital) in the future if we don't innovate, if we don't keep moving forward," Brownback said. "... This isn't just a groundbreaking for a new company. This is the groundbreaking for a new wave."

The company will occupy a new 20,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility to be constructed at the Newton City/County Airport and the eastern edge of the Kansas Logistics Park. The facility will produce next-generation aerospace coatings used in aerospace manufacturing processes being developed in conjunction with Wichita State's National Institute for Aviation Research.

Wichita State University president John Bardo said although WSU is in Sedgwick County, he sees the Harvey County project as an example of how the university wants to serve the entire state.

"We are not just Wichita's university — we are a Kansas university, we are a Kansas research university," he said. "We are here to work on behalf of the people in Kansas."

The facility is slated to open and begin manufacturing in October. ABI president and managing partner James Havers-Strong said the company intends to have 12-14 employees by the end of this year, increasing to 30 employees next year.

"For us, it's a pleasure and an honor to be based here in Kansas," he said.