One of the benefits of working for Site Selection Magazine is the opportunity to travel, meet new people, visit friends we’ve made along the way, experience new things and places. My travels certainly aren’t as exotic as Adam’s to Asia, however there are great things in smaller destinations to enjoy.
The week of July 5th, I traveled to Topeka, Kansas. Getting to Topeka was easy. Fly into Kansas City, rent a car and head west. Being from Atlanta, dealing with traffic on the roads and at security at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, makes the Kansas City airport my new favorite. You land, walk out the gate and baggage claim is right there. Little did I know the best part was flying out of Kansas City. Each airline has their own secruity check points right at their gates. Pure Heaven to anyone that deals with big airports.
The drive to Topeka is a little over an hour. When you think about Topeka, you know it’s capital of KS, it’s in the middle of the country, but not much else. There’s a lot of charm and pride there.
The first stop was to check into the Ramada Inn& Convention Center. This is the first Ramada Inn that I’ve stayed in. Surprisingly, it was very nice. The rooms had just been renovated and they had the comfy beds that a weary traveler appreciates. Free breakfast is always a good thing.
The Topeka Chamber is 2 blocks from the hotel. That was my next stop for meetings. As a stranger walking in the door, I was immediately greeted and felt welcomed.
When you visit new cities, the natives like to show off their town. What’s interesting is how the people think and what’s special to them. Steve Jenkins, Senior Vice President – Economic Development for the Topeka Chamber shows me the new Target and Home Depot Distribution Centers, the site for the new Bimbo Bakeries USA/Allen Foods and the Kanza Fire Commerce Park . All very impressive!
Topeka from a business stand point is a perfect location. Litterally in the middle of the country, which makes it a logistics dream, very affordable and three universities providing quality work force.
Later in the day, Andrea Engstrom, from MB Piland, the chamber’s ad agency tours me around the arts district, adorable shops and the best way to end a busy day, wine tasting at the New City Grill.
If that wasn’t nice enough, dinner at Chez Yasu French Resturant. The special was Seabass. Another Topeka treat.
The next morning, I headed back to the KC airport with stops in Overland Park, KS. Overland Park is a very nice area. It has a lot of trees and some rolling hills. Lunch was at Hayward’s Pit Bar B Que. A historic, family run restaurant founded on August 19, 1972. You always know that a restaurant is good when you walk in and there are walls of famous people’s pictures lining all the walls.
After a meeting at Overland’s Chamber with Andrew Nave, headed back to the stress free KC airport. The Kansas trip was quick, fun and enlightening.
Last week in the midst of stress I was scheduled to go to Normal, IL. This was my first time there. Had no idea what to expect. The name Normal makes you feel like you going to somewhere calm and trouble free.
The purpose of this trip for for the IDC, Illinois Development Council’s meeting. Every year, they go to a different part of the state. It’s a pleasure to visit and learn about new places.
Looking out the plane as we landed, it’s very flat, green and you see lots of corn fields. The run way is litterally next to one. They have a brand new airport. It’s the Bloomington/Normal Airport. The two cities are right next to each other and share a lot of history. They say, “Downtown Bloomington, Uptown Normal.” Normal is the home of Illinois State University.
The conference was being held at the brand new Marriott. It was beautiful! My room wasn’t ready, so the lady suggested that I take a walk Uptown, have lunch at the Garlic Press, check out the new children’s museum and shops. That’s what I did. Eventhough there had been lots of improvements, you still had the just walked back into history feel.
On the way back to the hotel, there was a t-shirt shop. It had the greatest t-shirt ever. You can see the photo. Of course I had to have one.
The two days in Normal were very enjoyable. College towns always are. It was sad leaving Normal to head back to the big city and reality.