Q Corp. joins growth program

A Derby company is the first in a statewide pilot program designed to help existing small businesses grow.

Q Corp., at 301 River St., has joined the Kansas Economic Gardening Network, a pilot program providing sophisticated technical assistance to grow established businesses.

The network is administered by Network Kansas, established by the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004 to assist entrepreneurial start-ups and existing Kansas businesses.

Steve Radley, who directs Network Kansas, said the goal of the pilot program is growing existing small businesses.

"The idea is rather than economic hunting, or the recruiting of business into the community, the national people developed a system to provide market research and sophisticated information to existing businesses that want to grow," Radley said.

Q Corp., which began 40 years ago in Derby building electronics and has branched out into aviation subcontracting and robotics, will receive 35 hours of consulting from the National Economic Gardening Team, based in Littleton, Colo.

Q has about $2.5 million in sales annually, a figure that's been growing by about 10 percent every year, said Ben Swigart, the company president.

"We've been very consistent," Swigart said. "What we want is an opportunity to see that 10 percent turn into 15 percent or more."

Q's core business is in electronics, but changes in the industry forced it to diversify, Swigart said.

"What we really have is three business models under one roof," he said.

"We have a plan on the equipment side to grow it by adding equipment and territories. We've added ... certification and machining equipment on the contract parts side and on the automation side, we're beginning the marketing of that externally."

Radley cited studies from the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas that show growing existing Kansas businesses yields more jobs than recruiting new businesses.

Specifically, from 1990 to 2004, 96.8 percent of new Kansas jobs came from start-ups or expansions, with only 3.2 percent created by companies moving to Kansas, the center study indicates.

"We're finding companies with this core capacity for growth all over the state," Radley said.

"If we can help smaller companies in Kansas — and Q's not going anywhere; they've been here 40 years — then these are the types of companies that can grow and that's where our jobs are going to come from."