Location, location, location.
Ever wonder why towns spring up in certain locations?  And why some shrivel while others blossom into beautiful cities?
Location, location, location.
San Francisco developed because of its splendid harbor. The Rocky Mountains spawned Denver. Chicago’s location on Lake Michigan was not an accident.
It’s all about location.
So why is Newton. . . here?
Any why has Newton maintained a steady population while many once-vibrant towns in Kansas have faded?
Even for Newton, it’s all about location. And proactive community leaders who maximize that advantage.
Ever hear of John C. Nicholson? Neither had I.
But we owe much of Newton’s vibrancy and economic sustainability to Mr. Nicholson, a Newton attorney, city councilman and mayor in the early 1900s.
Nicholson was an avid bicyclist. He also was one of few citizens who could afford to own a 1903 Maxwell automobile. He rode great distances through the uncharted fields and muddy lanes of Harvey County and beyond. He loudly voiced his frustration when he would run out of road or wind up without warning in a sand pit.
He made it his personal challenge to get better roads for Kansans wanting to travel.
Nicholson sagely postulated that the automobile “might gain popularity” and that towns with accessible roads would have commercial advantage.
In 1911, a group of Midwest road advocates, including Newton’s Nicholson, met in Salina to begin a collaborative effort to create decent roads. Keep in mind, we are not talking about widening roads; they were pushing to chart and create new roads through wheat fields.
The Good Roads Movement started as a local effort. Quickly these champions for roads recognized the need for a finished road north-south down the middle of North America.
Nicholson and his followers began the creation of the Meridian Highway. The plan was to establish a hard-surface road from the Canadian border south to Mexico, following the Sixth Principle Meridian. Nicholson’s leadership and tenacity brought that Meridian Highway right through Newton.
Mr. Nicholson committed 27 years to influencing America’s early highways. He is credited not only for establishing the north to south Meridian Highway (later named U.S. 81, and a precursor to Interstate 135), but also was the force behind efforts to connect U.S. 50 from the east coast to the west coast.
Most significantly to us, John Nicholson’s dream was for these two “super roads” to converge in Newton. The Meridian Highway crossed U.S. 50 at what we now know as the Main and Broadway intersection.
With a strong railroad presence and with highway access to Newton from all compass points, Newton was positioned as a center for commerce, trade, tourism and growth.
Even at the turn of the last century, John Nicholson knew it was all about location.
Situated at the crossroads of I-135 and U.S. Highway 50, our location continues to influence economic development and community growth.
Newton civic leaders helped pioneer highway construction at the turn of the last century. Today’s leaders have positioned us as innovators in small city economic development. The successful trail blazed by Sand Creek Station Golf Course and our soon to be successful Kansas Logistics Park are evidence of commitment to future generations.  
Securing future economic vitality through prudent, visionary investment. Good leadership.
The conference center which Newtonians have been asking for and waiting for is steaming ahead. So is the privately-funded Holiday Inn Express and the adjacent Huddle House Restaurant. Further evidence of Newton taking advantage of its pivotal location.
This hive of commercial activity sits just off I-135 and not far from the U.S. 50 exit. John C. Nicholson would be proud.
And we, too, as a community should be proud. Our new conference center has credible potential to energize Newton. The possibility of a conference center in Newton has been considered for nearly a decade. Now the summer grand opening is within sight.
The vision, tenacity and political courage of our earliest leaders created the Meridian Highway, thus ensuring visitors could easily and safely get to Newton.
Similarly, the conference center will be easily accessible to visitors throughout South Central Kansas, and will stand as a welcoming, visible and impressive venue at its convenient location just off I-135.
In recognition of the important historic contribution of the Meridian Highway and in celebration of Newton’s prime and accessible location, the Newton conference center will be called The Meridian Center.
The Meridian will attract business and professional group meetings, state and regional association conferences, and training events. Outside money coming into Newton.
The Meridian also will be a splendid venue for wedding receptions, class reunions, celebrations. A welcome community amenity helping our dollars stay in our community.
The Meridian Center will be inviting and effective in design, first class in service, and pivotal in its accessible location.
In a follow-up article, I will explain funding for the Meridian, its management plan, and some of the special features of our newest multi-use facility.
Enjoy the construction progress as we anticipate the opening of Newton’s Meridian Center. An investment in our future.

Barbara Burns is the community advancement coordinator for the city of Newton.