Commerce Grows its Team

Feb 07, 2020

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The Kansas Department of Commerce is growing our team of professionals to support further growth in Kansas. In recent months, the agency has added two new Regional Project Managers in the state, fully staffed its domestic business recruitment team across the country and added leadership to its newly reconstituted International Division, which engages markets all around the world.

Regional Project Managers

The Kansas Department of Commerce recently welcomed two Regional Project Managers to serve on the Retention and Expansion Team in the Business Development division. This move also created a new region for Wichita.

Marla Canfield joined Commerce as the South Central Regional Project Manager covering 14 counties. Canfield has more than 10 years of economic development experience including time as executive director and administrative services manager for the Regional Economic Area Partnership of South Central Kansas (REAP) and as a program consultant for the Registered Apprenticeship Program with the Department of Commerce. She also served as manager of public outreach for Envision and as employment services manager at the Department of Children and Families.

Wiley Smith joined Commerce as the South Central–Sedgwick County–Regional Project Manager covering Wichita and the surrounding communities. Smith has more than 20 years of workforce training experience with the Department of Commerce. He was most recently a business service representative at the Wichita Workforce Center, where he was responsible for interfacing with local businesses and industry groups to provide workforce outreach services.

Canfield and Smith are both located in Wichita. Visit our webpage for a complete list of Regional Project Managers.

Business Recruitment Team

For the first time in more than 15 years, Kansas has fully staffed its team of Business Recruitment professionals across the country.

Jeff Freeman joined the Business Recruitment Team earlier this year, filling our position in the Great Lakes Region. A passionate advocate of economic growth at large, Jeff’s career has been devoted to economic development through successful representation of both the public and private sector. Through his unique comprehensive and global perspective of economic development, Jeff’s leadership has been responsible for the transfer of over $200M in governmental incentives and the creation of thousands of jobs worldwide. During his 13-year tenure at Honeywell International, Jeff was responsible for spearheading myriad structural reforms to the government relations strategy, models, and internal/external relationships regarding incentive acquisition and utilization. Bolstered by his Six Sigma Green Belt Certification, Jeff achieved significant cost and time savings while simultaneously increasing profitability and erudition of emerging markets.

Prior to joining Honeywell, Jeff worked as a Business Development Manager in the state of Florida focusing on business attraction, retention, and economic expansion for Pinellas County. Jeff holds an MBA from Nova Southeastern University and an undergraduate degree in Business Management.

International Division

Secretary David Toland appointed Jeff Willis as director of the newly reconstituted International Division at the Kansas Department of Commerce. As director, Willis will lead efforts to grow Kansas exports and attract more foreign direct investment by international companies in Kansas. Exports for Kansas totaled $11.6 billion in 2018. 60,800 workers in Kansas are employed as a result of international investment.

Before joining the Department, Willis served as President of Eastern Strategies, LLC., specializing in helping manufacturing companies with strategic planning, partner selection, problem resolution and many other aspects of their Asia-related businesses. Willis also founded a subscription-based web service, Fluentpages.com, which enabled U.S. companies to easily add foreign language marketing content to their websites and more effectively use the internet to generate trade leads and sell goods and services to overseas buyers.

Willis is a former commercial officer with the U.S. Commercial Service and held positions at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, and the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, China. He left the diplomatic service in 1992 to return to the U.S. where he directed the Asian international marketing program for the State of Kansas. He is also a past president of the International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City and past Chair of the U.S. Department of Commerce Mid-America District Export Council. Willis is a current and long-standing member of the Kansas International Trade Coordinating Council.

Jeff graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in both French and philosophy and also earned his Master of Arts in East Asian languages and cultures from KU.