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What Garmin's Expansion Means to Olathe

What Garmin’s Expansion Means to Olathe


More construction, more jobs—and better odds that another Garmin will grow there.

Garmin’s plan to construct a major new addition on its Olathe campus will be the largest expansion in the city’s history, said Tim McKee, CEO of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce.

Last month, the city council approved the expansion unanimously. While there were some concerns from nearby homeowners— the project failed to win a vote before the planning commission—business owners are excited about what it could do for the local economy. McKee ticked off the three biggest benefits:

CAPITAL INVESTMENT // Garmin intends to build an approximately 700,000-square-foot facility that will serve as manufacturing and warehousing space—an enormous investment and, on a physical basis, the city’s largest expansion in memory.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that Garmin will then retrofit its old manufacturing building into office space, McKee said.

THOUSANDS OF NEW JOBS // As many as 2,700 new employees could be coming eventually to the campus at 151st Street and Ridgeview Road. Many of the new positions will be the kind of high-paying technology jobs that every community craves.

“We’ve never had a company bring in this amount of jobs at one time,” McKee said.

A WIDER IMPACT // Garmin’s investment is going to ripple across the rest of the local economy, too—from the local housing market to Garmin vendors to the lunch places near the company’s campus.

And down the road? It increases the odds of another Garmin-style company taking root in the community.

In 2013, the Kauffman Foundation published research showing that—unlike other cities, where research institutions nurture new tech and bioscience companies—Kansas City’s existing companies are one of the best sources for high-potential startups.

Garmin co-founder Min Kao, for example, was an engineer with King Radio and AlliedSignal before he and Gary Burrell created Garmin in the late 1980s. Though Garmin might be the best-known example, Olathe is home to a cluster of other tech companies that have ties to King Radio, McKee said.

Even without the Garmin news, 2015 was the best year ever for Olathe on the development front, McKee said. The city is going to be home to the metro’s first new full-service hotel in a decade, as well as a $100 million hospital expansion. That’s not counting a series of big distribution projects that are underway.

About $500 million worth of construction is in process right now. Once Garmin gets started, “they should push it to $600 million, $700 million,” McKee said.

(image courtesy of Garmin International)

James Hart

Written by

James Hart is a freelance writer based in Kansas City.

Categories: KC Futures


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