New tenant coming to Newton City/County Airport's ABI building

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Human Plant Solutions, which makes prosthetics from natural fibers including hemp, is hoping to move into a building at the Newton City County Airport temporarily as it seeks a permanent facility in the area.

The former ABI building at the Newton City/County Airport could be gaining a new tenant after the city reached a lease agreement with a new company that could lead to occupancy for 180 days. 

Human Plant Solutions, a new manufacturing company that has come through the Wichita State business incubator, would move into part of the building if all agreements can be approved. 

"They are a unique company," said Kelly McElroy, city manager for the city of Newton. "We really wanted to keep them here. They have great ties to NIAR, K-State and KU ... Our hope is that we can locate them temporarily."

The agreement must still be approved by the Harvey County Commission as well. 

Human Plant Solutions would occupy about half of the building, rent free, for up to 180 days while city and economic development staff work with the company to find a permanent space for the company. 

"Our incentive in this is, of course, the use of that space," McElroy said. 

Human Plant Solutions is providing a $3,000 deposit, which would be returned if the building is returned in good condition. McElroy said Tuesday that there is another company looking at the building that would not only utilize the entire building, but the equipment within. That company is currently in a contract negotiation for its product expected to take a few more months. That company, McElroy said, would not need the building for another six to eight months. 

Utilizing natural fiber, Human Plant Solutions has created an alternative to conventional ultra-light composites for prosthetic and device manufacturing. In 2017, the company developed the first hemp fiber prototype for a high-activity, below-knee amputee. According to the company, the patient has been wearing the original prototype device since then, competing in competitive events including a 70.3 Ironman race and the virtual Boston Marathon.

The Wichita-based company makes "Eco-Resin," designed to replace petroloum-based resins, and "No-Glass," a natural fiber base replacement for fiber glass.  

Until now, the company has produced its products at Wichita State, but it has outgrown the available space. The Harvey County Economic Development Council has worked with the company for several months to find the company a temporary space to use. 

The short-term lease approved by the city, pending approval by the county, would allow Human Plant Solutions to occupy the facility rent free for a period of 90 days, with an additional 90-day extension available should the parties agree to extend. While rent would be waived for this 180-day period, Human Plant Solutions would be responsible for all regular utilities. The agreement would begin March 19, if approved by the county commission. 

The city is currently obligated to make a payment to Butler Electric Co-op of approximately $2,300 per month related to improvements installed by Butler Electric. The lease agreement with Human Plant Solutions stipulates the city continuing to make that payment, with Human Plant Solutions being responsible for any amount exceeding $2,300.

In other business Tuesday, the commission:

• Approved closure of Athletic Park Circle from 6 to 11 p.m. May 1 for Newton High School's prom. 

• Approved city code updates regarding utility connections, meters and tampering with meters.

• Approved updates to city code relating to the control of animals within the city. The city will allow hobby breeding. The individual must be a licensed hobby breeder through the Kansas Department of Agriculture and be in full compliance with their regulations. A hobby breeder is subject to the number of adult animal limitations set forth in the ordinance. The city code will now allow for invisible fencing, as long as the property is marked. The city removed cat registration requirements and lowered the fees for dog registration.