At tour of Lawrence manufacturing plant, Gov. Kelly discusses economic development, election and Biden

photo by: Lauren Fox

Gov. Laura Kelly, second from left, gets a tour of Plastikon Healthcare in Lawrence on Tuesday. With Kelly are Plastikon site and technical director Sandy Dixon, left; Kansas Secretary of Commerce David Toland, second from right; and Plastikon Executive Vice President Kaveh Soofer, right.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has already been in touch with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, and she hopes the new administration will provide the state with more help than the current one, she told the Journal-World on Tuesday.

Kelly briefly discussed the national election after receiving a tour of a local manufacturing plant. While she plans to work with Biden’s administration much in the same way as President Donald Trump’s, Kelly said she expects Biden’s administration might have a different philosophy and that it “might be a little bit easier to get the kind of help that we need.”

“But I will work with them much like I worked with the Trump administration, which is on behalf of the state of Kansas,” she said. “When they can be helpful, I’m going to contact them and put some pressure on them to do that.”

Kelly also said she thought Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab did a “fabulous” job overseeing the state’s elections and that she hasn’t heard any concerns from people about how Kansas ran its elections.

“Schwab did a fabulous job … instilling confidence in the people of Kansas that our elections were fair and secure and really promoted advance balloting, particularly important in this time of COVID,” she said.

Kelly was in Lawrence to tour Plastikon Healthcare, a local manufacturing plant that has been creating test tubes used for COVID-19 testing. Kansas gave Plastikon $3 million of aid this year, $2 million of which came from a Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) grant that was intended to help with COVID-19-related projects. That money was used by the company to purchase equipment that creates test tubes. By December, when both of the company’s pieces of equipment are up and running, it will be able to produce 11 million test tubes per week. On Tuesday, only one piece of equipment was in use.

photo by: Lauren Fox

A Plastikon Healthcare employee works in the Ultimate test tube suite, a room with two machines that produce test tubes.

The Journal-World was not permitted to join Kelly on the tour of the facility because the company and the governor were trying to limit the size of the group. After the tour’s conclusion, Kelly called attention to the partnership between the company and the state.

“What we’re seeing here is expansion of a facility and a gain in jobs in the city of Lawrence,” Kelly said. “But beyond that, we’re also seeing the results of a collaborative partnership with the state and our private sector to be able to address the very serious issues we’re facing with COVID.”

As the Journal-World has reported, the expansion project is expected to add about 40 jobs to the plant, which is located in the East Hills Business Park on the eastern edge of Lawrence.

Lawrence was originally competing with Plastikon’s headquarters in California for the project, and Kelly said she was glad Lawrence was chosen and that the state of Kansas could help the company get this going.

“I’m always glad to take business from another state,” she said.

photo by: Lauren Fox

Plastikon Healthcare’s Ultimate test tube suite is pictured on Nov. 10. By December, the machines will be producing 11 million test tubes per week. Currently, only the machine pictured at left is in use.

Kelly said she learned on the tour that the Plastikon facility in Lawrence produces the largest number of test tubes in the country, and that it hopes to one day be the largest producer in the world.

Kelly came to the plant to celebrate its expansion and the addition of new jobs, but she said this expansion is just one of many good things Kansas has been doing over the past couple of years. On Tuesday, Kelly announced that Kansas had surpassed $2 billion in new capital investment in 2020.

“I ran as the education governor,” Kelly said. “(Secretary of Commerce David Toland) continues now to call me the economic development governor. But that’s because the two go together. I can’t support education without economic development.”

photo by: Lauren Fox

From left, Kansas Secretary of Commerce David Toland, Gov. Laura Kelly and Plastikon Healthcare Executive Vice President Kaveh Soofer inside Plastikon’s Lawrence facility, 3780 Greenway Circle.

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