Grantham University, a refugee from Hurricane Katrina that moved to Kansas City in 2005, is relocating its fast-growing online education operation to Lenexa from Zona Rosa, bringing 340 employees with it across the state border.
The online private university has more than doubled enrollment to 17,000 students since moving from New Orleans to Kansas City and outgrown its space in the Northland mixed-use development.
The move to larger quarters in South Lake Technology Park will allow it to expand its staff to 450 employees over the next couple of years. The move is expected to be completed by March.
“We have been searching diligently for a space to accommodate our growing employee base in the Kansas City metropolitan area, and Lenexa offers exactly what we need,” Joseph McGrath, Grantham’s president, said in a statement.
Grantham is also an educational operation, but as a private business it would be eligible for incentives from the state of Kansas, including the PEAK program, which allows employers to keep 95 percent of their employee withholding taxes for up to seven years.
State economic development officials could not be reached immediately for comment but did issue a statement praising Grantham’s decision.
“Grantham has selected our state as the best place to grow, invest and create new jobs,” Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said. “That is great news for Kansans and our economy.”
In another twist on the Border War, Grantham University is moving to a 66,000-square-foot building at 16025 W. 113th St. that had been vacated by Freightquote. The online shipping firm was lured by Missouri incentives to move its offices and 1,200 employees to Kansas City last year.
The school, founded in 1951 by Donald Grantham, had been searching for new space around the metro for more than a year.
David Zimmer, president of Zimmer Real Estate Services, represented the university in its search. He said the ample parking available at the South Lake building, called EcoWorks I, made it particularly attractive for the Grantham administrative offices.
“They looked at buildings on both sides of the border,” Zimmer said. “Parking made the difference.”
Jeffrey Cropsey, Grantham’s vice president for strategic initiatives and external relations, said Kansas City has proved to be a great location for his school. Its first home in New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, prompting the school to move.
“The school has been doing very well in recent years,” Cropsey said. “Everyone was so welcoming in Kansas City, both the political and business community. We were very happy to set up shop here.”
All of Grantham’s courses are offered online; there are no physical classrooms. The school, which offers 38 associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, is particularly popular with military personnel. The founder of the school was a World War II veteran who wanted to help fellow vets return to civilian life.
“They set the standard for excellence with the distance learning and training they provide, especially to military members and veterans,” said Blake Schreck, president of the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce. “We are proud to have them in our community.”