Business Buzz

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Hesston, Newton receive CDBG funds

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly announced July 9 the third round of Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Response Supplement (CDBG-CV) awards, distributing nearly $4 million to 25 Kansas communities to promote business retention for small businesses affected by the pandemic.

Two of the grants are headed to Harvey County — Hesston and Newton will receive $150,000 each. 

“Kansas continues to experience record economic success, bringing in jobs and business investment at historic levels,” Governor Kelly said. “These grant funds will support that momentum by ensuring small Kansas businesses can maintain their workforce. We’ll continue to focus strategic investments that will create a stronger, more resilient economy to help Kansas businesses and families succeed.”

CDBG-CV is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. The two previous grant rounds in this category awarded cities and counties with projects pertaining to economic development and meal programs. However, unlike previous rounds, these grants are available specifically to ensure job retention for Kansas businesses with under 50 employees.

KCC issues first order on recovery of February weather event costs

TOPEKA – The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) issued the first of several utility-specific orders addressing customer payment of deferred energy costs related to the February 2021 winter weather event on July 8. 

On February 15, the KCC ordered regulated utilities to do everything possible to continue providing power and natural gas service to their customers in spite of skyrocketing natural gas prices. Utilities were instructed to defer any extraordinary costs and then propose a plan to recoup the charges over time to reduce the financial impact on customers. Each plan would require Commission approval.

The first of the payment plans to be considered by the Commission, submitted by American Energies Gas Service, was approved this morning. The company, which supplies gas service to approximately 200 customers in Harvey, McPherson, and Marion counties, reported $317,914 in extraordinary costs for the weather event, inclusive of carrying costs to finance the delayed recovery plan. For context, that is more than the utility typically collects in total annual revenues from customer billing. Under the plan, American Energies customers have the option to make monthly payments over a 5-year period or make a lump sum payment.  If a customer chooses to make a lump sum payment, they will avoid the monthly carrying charges over 60 months.  The payment amounts are based on individual customer usage during February 2021.

In light of ongoing state and federal investigations into the higher than normal February prices for natural gas, provisions are being included in each payment plan to protect ratepayer interests while still allowing utilities to begin recouping service costs.

“These investigations take time, and we don’t know when they will be completed. In the event there is a finding that the market price was unjust or the result of market manipulation, we make it crystal clear to utilities in these agreements that those proceeds will go back to the individual customers that are paying their bills today,” said Justin Grady, KCC Chief of Revenue Requirements, Cost of Service, and Finance.

An agreement on a plan proposed by the City of Eskridge is currently pending before the Commission while plans submitted by Southern Pioneer, Black Hills Energy, and Evergy are still being evaluated by KCC staff. Atmos, Empire, and Kansas Gas Service have not yet filed plans.

Kelly announces business recruitment partnership 

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly today announced an exciting new partnership between the Kansas Department of Commerce’s Certified Sites program and Kansas-based Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, which will increase the number of shovel-ready development sites Kansas can showcase to developers nationwide.

Commerce’s Certified Sites Program, originally created and administered by the Kansas Economic Development Alliance (KEDA), informs developers about potential sites the state has deemed ideal and primed for investment and development.

As the result of this new partnership, when a site has been certified through the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation Certified Sites Program, Commerce will automatically certify the site, as well.

“Showing developers the surplus of shovel-ready sites in Kansas is another strategic tool we can use to attract new businesses, new investments, and new jobs to our state,” Governor Kelly said. “My administration is pleased to partner with Sunflower Electric to draw in new business investment and maintain our state’s record-breaking economic success.”

Kansas’ Certified Site designations are appealing to investors and site selectors because the certification: provides important background information on a site’s availability, utilities, site access, environmental records and site development costs; encourages faster site selection decisions; and can help advance undeveloped or expansion projects.

“This agreement with Sunflower is a great way to get more sites certified in Kansas,” Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland said. “Sunflower’s certification process is thorough and detailed, and I’m pleased to join them in letting developers know where the state’s best economic development sites are located.”

SBA Hosts National SBIR Week

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration will host 2021 National SBIR Week on July 19 through July 23 for small business innovators.  The virtual event will connect entrepreneurs working on advanced technology to the country’s largest source of early-stage funding – the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.  The SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman will provide welcome remarks on July 19.

“The $4 billion in federal non-dilutive funding offered through SBA’s SBIR/STTR programs is often a critical milestone in moving an entrepreneur’s research idea from concept to commercial product/services. This national conference will enable entrepreneurs across the country to engage virtually with the federal program managers that oversee more than 7,000 awards annually,” said John Williams, Director of Innovation and Technology.

SBIR Week will feature complimentary events from organizations involved in supporting entrepreneurs across the country including, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC).

The MBDA InVision Tour will take place on July 21.  The InVision Tour is designed to empower minority entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to the commercial marketplace. Throughout the entire week, program managers from the participating federal agencies will conduct virtual one-on-one meetings with small businesses, take part in live targeted panels, discuss technology areas, and share insights into how the agencies make funding decisions.

Small technology firms, innovators, scientists, or researchers seeking more information, including the event schedule and participating agencies, should visit https://www.sbirroadtour.com/.