Koch in talks with Wichita about headquarters expansion

Koch Industries officials are weighing an expansion of the company headquarters near 37th and Oliver.

The expansion discussions, which are preliminary and include city of Wichita officials, are in response to a simple problem, Koch spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia said: The company has 200 vacant positions and it’s running out of room to fill them in the 1.025 million-square-foot north Wichita campus.

Currently, Koch employs about 2,600 people in Wichita, and about 67,000 in 60 countries worldwide.

“Although continued growth is not certain, it is important that we plan for that potential,” Cohlmia said. “Given this, we are reviewing possible options to build additional office space on our Wichita campus.”

The discussions are welcome news at City Hall, where Mayor Carl Brewer praised the company’s redoubled commitment to Wichita.

“We’re excited about the expansion discussions with Koch,” the mayor said. “It shows a real commitment on their part to Wichita and that we’re a progressive community. It’s obvious they see that.”

Any Koch expansion would be a “significant stabilizer for the Wichita economy,” said Jeremy Hill, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University.

“That’s a very positive thing for an economy that is very dependent on the manufacturing sector,” Hill said, “a sector that has been lacking. It’s pretty clear they have a significant impact on that.”

Cohlmia said the company has not formally committed to an expansion and has several options for the land, west of Oliver on 37th Street North. City officials said some of the changes being discussed include rerouting 37th Street, but it’s not clear what changes might be considered until the company completes any final plans.

“At this point, we are only exploring options,” Cohlmia said. “No changes are imminent and there is no certainty about whether we will proceed with any building project.”

Already, the company is building out underutilized space for offices in two buildings, with one completed in the first quarter of this year and design and engineering under way in the other, the result of an office space study that began in 2010. The company also is renovating its in-house employee restaurant, Koch Cafe.

Once that work is done, any further growth will require expansion, Cohlmia said.

“We will be close to full occupancy,” she said.

The Koch discussion comes on the heels of an expansion at Bombardier Learjet to take on the Learjet 85 program.

Bombardier announced last week that it’s also upgrading two existing aircraft models.

Spirit AeroSystems also remains in a growth mode as Boeing increases production on the popular 737 and other models.

Koch Industries is a diversified consumer products manufacturer and energy company making items such as Dixie cups, Stainmaster carpet, Lycra and Coolmax fabrics and Quilted Northern tissue. The company’s markets include polymers and fibers, minerals, ranching, commodity trading and services, forest and consumer products, fertilizers, refining and chemicals and pollution control equipment and technologies.

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