In Harvey County, business was booming the past year. Whether it was new stores opening, old businesses celebrating or area companies consolidating, there was a lot of activity making the headlines around Newton and Harvey County. Here's a look at some of the top business stories from the year that was:

1) Merging of the minds

Several area businesses joined forces in the past year, starting with two established Newton insurance companies. Conrade Insurance Group officially acquired Heinze Insurance on July 1, 2019 — with the purchase signaling a merger of the two companies. Conrade renovated its offices at 129 E. Broadway this year in preparation to take on additional staff, making room to facilitate 40 employees in its building (with personnel from Heinze Insurance staying on as part of the merger).

The insurance companies were just the start, though, as two local banks announced mergers with larger Kansas companies — starting with First Bank announcing its merger with Intrust Financial Corporation of Wichita in May, and becoming official in November.

Prior to the official transition for First Bank, Midland National Bank announced it would also be merging, coming to a deal with Union State Bank of Arkansas City. The transaction was anticipated to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, though Midland will continue to operate independently through the third quarter of 2020, when the rebrand to Union State Bank will become official (adding a few more services for local customers).

2) New industry starts up in Newton

With hemp legalized as a cash crop by the Kansas Legislature in 2019, that opened the door for some new business opportunities. Enter Sunnyland Kansas, a business founded by the Coleman family with corporate offices in Wichita, which opened an industrial hemp drying facility in the Newton Industrial Park. That facility became one of the first of its kind in the state in early 2019.

The company promotes the growing of feminized hemp as a primary strategy to help farmers achieve the maximum economic benefit of growing a CBD and CBG-rich crop. The company will be adding services as well — including distribution of the feminized seeds and starts/transplants in early 2020.

“We are excited to be part of this rapidly changing business. The potential benefits of this plant are far-reaching and exciting, and our heart goes out to all the hard-working Kansas farmers who need help to get the right start,” said Kathy Coleman, co-founder of Sunnyland.

3) Businesses have banner year

Numerous local businesses celebrated milestone anniversaries in the past year, starting with one local bank. While others were merging, Kansas-based Central National Bank (with branch locations in Newton, Hesston and Halstead) entered its 135th year of business — after being established Sept. 15, 1884, in Junction City — by offering special rates on certificates of deposit (CDs).

On top of that, several other local businesses marked special anniversaries. Both Prairie View and Park Aerospace celebrated 65 years in business — with the latter breaking ground on a $19 million expansion at the Newton City-County Airport — while The Bradbury Group of Moundridge and Newton's Bunting Magnetics each commemorated 60 years in business in 2019.

4) Local growth continues

Park was not the only business to start work on expansion this year, as Hesston's Excel Industries also decided to take on a multi-million dollar facility expansion, which would provide additional manufacturing space to support new product introductions and upgrade existing paint systems. That expansion was slated to be complete in the third quarter of 2019.

Halstead's Martin Machine and Welding also announced a 7,500-square-foot expansion to its current facilities in 2019. Meanwhile, Newton Medical Center expanded its mission toward holistic health with the official opening of its fit trail in fall 2019 while new ownership of Fox Ridge Golf Course added to its offerings with new fitness facilities, among other facility or service expansions that took place at Harvey County businesses in 2019.

5) A unique dining experience

Moundridge couple Joetta and Dave Whitcomb announced plans to bring local diners something new in 2019 — renovating a two-story, 1910 farmhouse they purchased earlier this year and turning it into a restaurant called The Homestead, with a a menu featuring both German Mennonite items and American-style meals. The restaurant was expected to open in Moundridge around the end of the year.