Joining together could bring about more development


January 17, 2017 - 12:00 AM

Stories in the Register have told in detail about economic development successes in Chanute (Monday) and steps being taken in Allen County (today).
Chanute has had an uptick from its selection for Orizon Aerostructures, in competition last year that involved 49 communities, including Iola. The company will have about 100 employees, earning high wages, by early summer. Eventually the company, making components for civilian and military aircraft, expects to have 500 employees. A travel center, motel and other commercial enterprises also will open this year.
Among things Allen County can crow about of late are connected to Ray Maloney, who has a scrap yard at LaHarpe. Maloney purchased the old Klein Tool plant north of Moran and has a company working there (more about it in a few days in the Register). He also promoted and put money into a vocational-technical training center in the old Diebolt building at the southeast edge of LaHarpe.
Allen County may be within a year or so of having a wind farm, with 15 full-time jobs and very substantial payments in lieu of taxes until property taxes kick in.
Meanwhile, an economic development group, under leadership of David Toland, is exploring every opportunity to improve the county’s commercial and industrial stock. G&W Foods, attracted in large measure by Toland’s efforts, will start construction on its grocery on the old hospital site soon. A complex of 12 apartments, next to the grocery site, recently had tenants move in and hopes to have the facility soon filled.

ECONOMIC development often achieves more through cooperative efforts.
Matt Godinez, enthusiastic director at Chanute, essentially said ignoring city limits and county boundaries would be helpful to all in this piece of southeast Kansas.
Humboldt is home of two robust industries, Monarch Cement and B&W Trailer Hitches.
Activists there are eager to encourage anything, including housing, to improve the community.
Iola Industries — think the apartment complex — has had the same mission in Iola for decades and quickly joined the countywide effort, which also has financial support of Iola and Allen County.
Perhaps we should go further.
The U.S. 169 corridor is a lifeline between Kansas City and Tulsa. Iola, Humboldt and Chanute are situated within a stone’s throw of the highway. Iola may be best positioned because of visibility, but Chanute has overcome being in a shadow, first with a new high school, then with development along the south exit and finally the travel center and motel.
Humboldt, with resources somewhat limited, has made overtures along several avenues, and its leaders are eager for development.
Veiled contention, mainly with roots of years ago, can have an effect. But, as Godinez told the Register, letting high school rivalries have a role is folly.
If Allen County, as well as Iola, Humboldt and other cities within, were to throw weight into concentrated effort with Chanute and Neosho Couny, such a consortium would have greater resourses, and more opportunities for success.
Already residents of the cities involved are driving one way or another to fill jobs in Iola, Humboldt and Chanute. Many others come from outlying cities in southeast Kansas — Parsons, Garnett, Fort Scott, Independence, etc. — to work in businesses and industries along the 20-mile corridor.
A pressing need is housing affordable enough to prompt those now driving many miles a week — forfeiting a portion of their paychecks to purchase fuel, not to mention less time with family — to consider moving to Iola, Humboldt, Chanute, or to any town or city hereabouts.
That not only would enhance workaday opportunities, but also increase commercial activity and massage governmental budgets through utility payments and property and sales taxes.
Working together might have roadblocks — at least early on — but the reward could make it well worth the effort.

— Bob Johnson

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