PARSONS — State Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz and Secretary of Commerce David Toland visited southeast Kansas Thursday for a ribbon cutting and ceremonial throwing of a switch to mark the arrival of the first loaded train cars at the Great Plains Industrial Park in more than 40 years.

“As a southeast Kansan it really is a terrific day to come home and to celebrate this first domino that’s falling at Great Plains Industrial Park,” Toland said. “We’re getting this win and it’s the first of many that are going to come here.”

Toland recalled meeting with some people from Parsons during a trip to Atlanta when he was working in Washington, DC, several years ago.

“I remember the mix of concern but also optimism about what could be done at this facility to turn it into a new economic center, economic driver, for Parsons, Labette County, southeast Kansas and the state as a whole, and that is happening and we are excited about it,” he said.

The new project is a partnership with the company Transportation Partners & Logistics (TP&L) Management Solutions, which will now be shipping wind energy components to the GPIP. There are currently 27 wind turbine blades — each measuring 59 meters and weighing 36,000 pounds — at the industrial park. 68 train cars were required to haul the turbines to Parsons.

“At KDOT we recognize the importance of partnerships,” said Lorenz, adding that Kansas should take advantage of the economic opportunities provided by its central location in the country.

“I’m thrilled to be here today to celebrate both an economic development win for Kansas and to also celebrate the strong power of partnerships,” she said. “It was through our economic development program that we were able to award the Great Plains Industrial Park a $1.64 million grant, and we did it moving at the speed of business.”

The deal was arranged and executed within 67 working days, Lorenz said.

TP&L operates in eight states, with its largest facility in Garden City, Kansas, said Jim Orr, president and a co-founder of the company, and has so far invested more than $1 million at GPIP.

“When we started in Garden City that was 10 acres, kind of similar to this,” Orr said. “We now cover over 600 acres. We have about anywhere from 7,000 to 8,000 components on the ground all the time. We’re loading an average of 100 trucks in and out a day, and again that started out as one project. But you need help from the community to get it going, and from there we’ll do our part.”

GPIP Park Director Brad Reams said recent infrastructure improvements at the industrial park include upgrades to its rail lines to support the heavy wind energy components that are now beginning to be brought into the park.

“That will cascade into other economic development opportunities,” Reams said, as other companies in related industries or with similar needs take advantage of what GPIP has to offer.

Until September of last year, Reams had been city administrator for the City of Frontenac, where he was working on similar plans. “We had a partnership with Watco; we were exploring industrial development opportunities,” Reams said, “and, you know, when the job change came, that ended.”

Although the City of Frontenac now has an additional $85,000 available that it will likely spend on road paving projects, the previously planned industrial park project “doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this year,” John Zafuta, the current city administrator, said at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“There are opportunities in the Pittsburg area,” Reams said, “so we were trying to take advantage of those, and then the job change happened and so we came here, and I was very blessed with the fact that a lot of the infrastructure is already here, and so it makes it that much easier to attract, you know, any of the businesses.”