Does competition hurt or help an enterprise?
In theory, the more restaurants, retailers and hotels a community has, the more people it attracts, benefiting all involved.
Various factors can tip the scales, including location, the investment in promotion, as well as its reputation as being a welcoming and reputable business.
At Monday’s Iola city council meeting several local restaurateurs voiced their objections to a proposed hotel and restaurant looking to locate at the intersection of Highways 54 and 169. The hotel alone is a $4.5 million investment by Bill Michaud of Fort Scott.
As for the restaurant, the owner of Sharky’s Pub and Grub is reportedly waiting to see if the hotel is a go before making a commitment to build the $1.5 million enterprise. (Michaud is looking for local investors to help finance $900,000 of the 60-room hotel.)
Other projects on Iola’s horizon include a $3.5 million facility for the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas on North State Street, a new Dollar Tree, and the $4 million G&W Foods on the site of the old hospital.
Altogether, we’re looking at almost $15 million, not including the EDP Renewables wind farm, with expected annual sales and property tax revenues and utility payments in the hundreds of thousands.
Let it be noted that none of the above enterprises are headquartered in Iola, but seem to have confidence it’s a good place to do business.
BUT WOULD that success come at the expense of our local mom-and-pops?
Those drawn to Iola to stay at a new Sleep Inn & Suites would be as enticed as anyone to have a pizza at Sam & Louie’s, barbecue at Dudley’s Done Right or a chicken wrap at Rookie’s.
And us locals — a restaurant’s bread and butter — would continue to support our favorite establishments.
The point is to grow revenue opportunities that will bring more people our way, not build walls out of the fear that competition will hurt our existing businesses.
As to whether public dollars should go to such enterprises that request such incentives — that cat’s out of the bag.
Chanute and Pittsburg — the only two communities in southeast Kansas posting any growth — are big believers in granting financial packages, land, utility extensions or in-kind labor to help secure new businesses.
Today, it’s the lay of the land.
WE SHOULD view this outside — and outsized — interest in our region as a gift. Let’s not waste it.