RDA Happenings March 2011
Posted on March 1, 2011 – By Emporia RDA
Last month for a variety of reasons my 10-year predictors for the Emporia Gazette Progress edition didn’t get included in the publication. So this month’s article are those comments on Emporia’s future.
Sometimes we need to look back to the past to determine the future. We began this decade – 2010 – with a smaller population in Emporia and Lyon County than in 2000. Population growth is a function of employment. With the closing of businesses such as Didde Web Press in 2001 and Modine in 2005 and then the downsizing of Tyson in 2008 Emporia caused a decline in population. We were fortunate to have new and expanding businesses of Menu Foods, Camoplast, Detroit Diesel, Norfolk Iron & Metal, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition expand in our area. The good news is that the population decline could have been worse without the new and expanding companies.
Our economic development goal is to stabilize our existing basic sector employers and continue to attract new basic sector employers to the region and have Emporia grow. Basic sector and non-basic sector employers are the foundation of the Economic Development Base Theory, and is used to determine a multiplier from basic jobs to calculate the creation of non-basic jobs to determine the total employment of the area.
The local economy in Economic Base Theory can be divided into two general business sectors – basic (or non local) and non-basic (local) sectors. The basic business sector consists of businesses which are entirely dependent upon external factors. For instance, our pet food companies (Hill’s, Simmons and Emporia Pet Products) sell about 99% of their products outside of the Emporia market area. The non-basic business sectors are businesses that depend largely upon local economic conditions to succeed. An example of non-basic business is a grocery store. The 99% of the sales are in the Emporia market area. If there are less basic employees, there will be a decrease of the purchasing power in the local community, which is what we experienced from 2000 to 2010.
The past year and the beginning of 2011, we have experienced the results of a negative economic multiplier with the closing of several non-basic employers, such as restaurants and retail stores. The local jobs lost at Tyson plus the national and global recession had an adverse impact on the non-basic business and employment.
If the global, national, state and local economy can sustain ten years of growth without another recession, then I strongly believe Emporia will grow. But it’s rare that we don’t have an economic downturn every 10 years or so. The competition for new basic employers is ever increasing because there are few projects and the regional competition is more nimble. We need to continue to focus our attentions on retention and expansion, however that is limited. Large retail developments will be challenging particularly because the population/purchasing power has declined. We will see some fill in development of “dark spaces” in the strip malls on the Industrial Road corridor and at the Flint Hills Mall.
On Commercial Street from 12th to South Avenue, we will continue to see the development of smaller niche entrepreneurial retail stores. The challenge on Main Street will be the redevelopment of “dark spaces” of the former Winter Furniture and Madelynn’s buildings. However, it will take time and the redevelopment will occur.
Our hope is that Emporia and Lyon County could recapture or grow to 27,000 city population and a county population of 35,000. That would be higher than my expectations; a 2 to 3% population increase is my prediction. Now if in the next ten years we can get the local economy growing and continue to create a business climate where basic employees can grow and prosper, then non-basic employment and business growth will occur. The local economy is diverse with a manufacturing base of food processing, pet nutrition and others. Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College have an economic impact. Newman Regional Health has a significant contribution to the local economy as well.
Emporia needs to be proactive in order to continue to maintain our current population and to grow. We need to combine efforts for all of our sectors of the economy – Emporia State University, Flint Hills Technical College, Newman Regional Health, Manufacturing Sector, City, County and School Districts. These need good leadership to manage the day-to-day operations and to provide visionary leadership for our future growth.
Specifically, the RDA needs the resources from the 1/2-Cent City Sales Tax that was used to fund the Aquatic Center bond payments to be entirely dedicated to economic development. Unfortunately, those resources are not available until 2015. That is four years out. If we want to compete on some of the spin off from the National Agro and Bioterrorism Federal Laboratory in Manhattan, Kansas, we need to have developed sites to attract those support businesses.
Emporia has always risen to the occasion; we need to continue to be pro-active and aggressive in our expansion and recruitment efforts. The economy is beginning to recover slowly. Some interesting opportunities are coming our way. The next ten years will be interesting and challenging.