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City shares economic development successes PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 December 2017 12:47


• Leader & Times

Economic development is an important part of any city, and in Liberal, much has been accomplished on that front, according to City Manager Mark Hall during the most recent meeting of the Liberal City Commission Tuesday evening. 

The Economic Development portion of the sales tax makes up 15 percent, Hall began. 

“That was adjusted over time as we saw what was going up and down,” Hall said. “We saw Housing increase, we had the Streets, Drainage and Capital Improvements increase and then we saw some adjustments to Crime Prevention and Beautification.” 

Hall then showed a list of suggestions that had been made back in 1994, with goals on that list including creating an industrial park to complement the airport industrial park and evaluate zoning ordinances, marketing opportunities of Southwest Medical Center and identifying a labor pool of qualified workers.

“Goal number five, and this might take a little longer  because it was reported in the paper we weren’t following this ... when I came on the board in 1994, the sales tax had been in effect for 12 years so there is a reason this wasn’t done,” Hall said, referring to a goal to build a 20,000 to 30,000 square foot industrial building. “It was largely due to not enough money but another thing was if you build such a building, how could you find such a business that would go in? There were airport issues, other things, but the driving force and reason it wasn’t done is the expense that would have been put into it and at that time, it was estimated in building the road, doing the improvements under the building amounted to about $2 million. There was actually a city commissioner on the Focus on the Future Committee at that time who was well aware that’s why it wasn’t done. The City always looks to expand and do things, but there are things that are the responsibility of the city commission of how to spend money and this opened itself up to that. There were too many questions and variables, so that’s why it wasn’t done.”

Hall then talked about some suggestions that had been raised in 2000, including recruiting a major grocery store and pharmacy facility in Liberal, recruiting a first-class restaurant, developing additional off-street parking for downtown, and marketing Liberal’s resources through area media, all of which have been done, according to Hall.

“We also hope to, and Jeff [Parsons] has alluded to this, there is a hope of trying to get a flight to Dallas,” Hall said. “We’ve always tried that, we will always strive for that, but it is ongoing.”

Suggestions that had been made in 2010 were also shown, including Southgate Mall, community transportation and making commercial landscaping required. Hall then showed a venn diagram  showing the three things that make economic development work, which are supporting workers, supporting businesses, and supporting quality of life. 

“Supporting businesses is a part of the pie. Supporting workers, you have to have workers if you’re going to have a business,” Hall said. “And another key factor is supporting quality of life. When you take those three and do Smart Growth, all of them relate. If you don’t have a workforce, you will not have business and if you don’t have quality of life, you don’t have the supporting workers or the business.”

One past project Hall touched on was a chicken plant. 

“The biggest worry they had was the workforce,” Hall said. “If we put in our plant 1,100 workers at that time, where are they going to come from? You have to have something besides just a plan to get workers to live here and work here.”

 Hall also praised the work being done by Economic Development Director Jeff Parsons.

“I would like to point out Jeff’s mission to change the economic climate around here,” Hall said. “We didn’t have a lot of tools. We didn’t know how to use those tools and there have been several things that have been brought to us that we use now. There’s the tax increment financing being used up north, the special assesments, Community Improvement Districts, Rural Housing Incentive Districts, Industrial Revenue Bonds, all those are things we use. A lot of small communities don’t have a pot of gold to throw at something and one of the biggest things that drives industry to come into the state and communities is tax incentives.”

The city’s Economic Development accomplished several things in 2016, Hall said, including the start of 20 new businesses, more than 23,000 people being served by the CityBus program, and six businesses having used the Facade Improvement Program, among many others. 

“Right now, you have, in this commission, a $60 to $70 million retail and commercial development going in up north,” Hall said. “That is something I will say, in talking to National Beef and others, they say it’s really a big plus for us in getting workers because with that development up there is where that quality of life issue comes in and workers want to move to Liberal. We need more workers and more housing and these types of things are really like the chicken or the egg question. We’ve already seen Freddy’s come to town and we’ve got another restaurant coming up and opening in the very near future. These developments, now you’re going to have two conference centers. That sets things in motion for economic development.”

Hall again praised Parsons’ work with the department. 

“Jeff had to sell out of an empty wagon,” Hall said. “We had the second highest crime rate per capita in Kansas, he had parks that weren’t developed, he had all these things in that quality of life portion and he had to work and sell Liberal. What has been done over these years is make Liberal the city of choice and the best we can be.”




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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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