TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The future for jobs and business in Topeka looks bright, according to the forecast delivered Thursday at the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.
The lunch event drew a packed crowd to the Ramada Hotel. Among the sunny spots touted was a major employer that generated questions in recent years as it went through an acquisition.
But with a 120-year history in Topeka,CEO Michael Kiley made it clear in this keynote speech to the Chamber crowd that Security Benefit is here to stay.
Security Benefit was acquired by Guggenheim Partners in 2010. As Guggenheim has leveraged its interests in the insurance and investment industry, Kiley says Security Benefit has become a bright spot. In fact, he says as the company has looked at areas of expansion, rather than make those moves at its New York or Chicago bases, Guggenheim is now choosing Topeka as the place to locate the work.
Kiley says Security Benefit expects to add another 80 jobs this year. That would bring the total number of jobs added in the past three years to 251, and the total number of employees at the company's Topeka offices to more than 800.
Kiley says the quality of the workforce in Topeka coupled with a positive business climate in Kansas are among the reasons it makes sense to locate the jobs here.
Kiley noted recent criticisms of corporate success in America, but says when companies are successful, communities are successful. He says 80 percent of Security Benefit's employees live in Shawnee County, pumping $55.8 million in salaries, benefits, corporate spending and corporate community gifts into area, along with $21.2 million in state and local tax revenue.
When Guggenheim acquired Security Benefit in 2010, their sales were at $950 million. Last year, they were $4.5 billion. Kiley says the numbers make Security Benefit the fastest-growing company in the U.S. retirement company.
Security Benefit's success is one reason chamber leaders, like new board chairperson Coleen Jennison, are optimistic about Topeka's business climate. Jennison says she doesn't know what the next big announcement will be, but the momentum and excitement people feel is enough to show people are getting behind Topeka.
Chamber leaders say strong support from the business community itself is crucial. Singled out for honors this year were Parrish Hotels as Chamber Member Firm of the Year, recently retired Stormont-Vail HealthCare CEO Maynard Oliverius as volunteer of the year, Paul Bossert of Premiere Employment Solutions as Fast Forward member of the year, Mickey Shaver as top diplomat and Maggie Kelley as top ambassador.
Jennison says Topeka also is seeing a groundswell of involvement from its young professionals. She says they have the ideas and the enthusiasm and the energy to make positive things happen.
The year ahead will bring the opening of the new Mars factory and the start of downtown improvements.
Kiley says Security Benefit couldn't be prouder to be part of it now and into the future. He says ultimately he wants to develop partnerships with KU, K-State and Washburn to ensure the qualified workforce that will make Topeka a national destination for the insurance and financial services industry.