TOPEKA — The top official in the Kansas Department of Commerce on Tuesday said he would resign from the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback to pursue business opportunities.

Secretary Antonio Soave, Overland Park, intends to step down immediately after 18 months as the state government’s director of economic development initiatives.

“I am most grateful for the opportunity to help advance the Kansas economy,” Soave said.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by Nick Jordan, director of the governor’s council of economic advisers and a former secretary at the Kansas Department of Revenue.

Brownback’s statement expressed admiration for Soave’s “enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and experience working with businesses in a wide range of industries.”

Soave was credited with expanding the state’s role in marketing the state, improving transition of military personnel to the state’s workforce and concentrating on small business development. In March, he made a pitch to attract satellite manufacturing companies to Kansas.

“We sometimes perceive Kansas to be a flyover state. We take exception to that. We consider Kansas to be a destination,” Soave said

Soave was chairman and chief executive officer of Capistrano Global Advisory Services, which identifies and negotiates international business ventures, when selected by Brownback to lead the commerce department in November 2015.

At that time, Soave said Kansas’ “skilled workforce and tax-friendly environment” made it a great place to do business.

That vacancy at commerce resulted from resignation of Pat George, a former state legislator who held the Cabinet post since 2011.

Brownback’s initial appointee to replace George, Leawood businesman George Hansen, withdrew prior to Senate confirmation when concerns were raised at the Capitol that Hansen would encounter conflicts of interest and allegations of nepotism due to a family member’s business interaction with commerce department programs.