Editor’s note: Chanute is abuzz with the upcoming opening of a new travel plaza, a new plant that builds components for military and civilian aircraft, added shopping destinations.
Today and Tuesday, the Register will look at Chanute’s future, and how it relates to what’s going on in Iola.
CHANUTE — Matt Godinez is a natural optimist, which suits perfectly with his new job.
About 18 months ago the Chanute native returned home to head the Chanute Regional Development Authority, the city’s economic development arm.
Prior to that, Godinez had worked in sales in the Kansas City area.
“This is the biggest thing I live to do,” he said. “’I’ve always looked at everything this way. Everything is sales. You have to sell yourself every day. I’m the salesperson for Chanute.”
With a series of recent and upcoming grand openings, Godinez’s bullishness and optimism appears to be well-founded.
On Saturday, Chanute’s new Dollar Tree store will open its doors, the latest addition to a shopping plaza on South Santa Fe Street. The nascent plaza is anchored by Hibbett Sports, which opened in 2016.
A few weeks later, Feb. 6 will mark the opening of the Love’s Travel Plaza, a truck stop and fuel outlet for passing motorists, and accompanying Arby’s restaurant, at the intersection of U.S. 169 and 35th Street.
Then, sometime in August, a Holiday Inn Express will open next door to the travel center, completing Chanute’s most visible development project along 169 since the highway’s bypass was built more than 30 years ago.
All the while, construction continues for a new facility to accommodate Orizon Aerostructures, a manufacturer of components for civilian and military aircraft.
Orizon announced last summer it was coming to Chanute, picking Chanute over 48 other communities across three states (including Iola). By the time construction is complete — perhaps by May — Orizon is expected to have more than 110 highly paid employees. Within a decade, the plant hopes to employ 500.
The projects have given Godinez, CRDA and the Chanute community one of the most valuable commodities sought by those who deal in economic development — momentum.
Suddenly, Godinez is fielding calls on a daily basis from other companies interested in relocating to Chanute.
“Once you get that momentum, it creates a domino effect,” he said. “You say you’re creating 100 jobs, but really you’re creating more than that. If you’re bringing new employees to town, you need more nurses, more teachers, more housing, things like that. It trickles down and the local economy grows.”
Godinez spoke about his optimism while discussing Chanute’s economic climate, where the community goes from here, and ways he can envision working with Iola and Allen County on other endeavors.
PLANNERS have been working for years to put the pieces together in order for development to connect Chanute with U.S. 169.
“There have been a lot of people working on this,” Godinez said. “The highway’s our hook. How else are we going to get people in here?”
Ground was broken for the Love’s and Arby’s stores last summer.
The travel center is ideally situated because of Chanute’s location, halfway between Kansas City and Tulsa, Godinez said.
“Traffic between Kansas City and Tulsa is booming,” Godinez said, noting especially Tulsa’s rapid growth. “Tulsa is growing by leaps and bounds.”
It’s in Chanute’s interest to siphon off that traffic, he said.
“One feasibility study estimates that 70 percent of the customers who stop out there won’t be from Chanute,” Godinez noted. “We’re getting people from out of town to come to Chanute, get some gas, stay at a hotel, get a bite to eat. That helps our economy.”
The Holiday Inn will contain 75 rooms, a swimming pool and several meeting rooms.
The proximity to both Kansas City and Tulsa cannot be overstated, Godinez stressed.
He envisions companies from both metropolitan areas eventually considering Chanute as a logistics hub to help reduce shipping costs.