Seems like people are always talking about the weather. It has to be the most popular conversation starter right after “How ya doin’?”
Perhaps next on the conversation list for people in the business world is, “How’s business?” Working at the Chamber, I probably hear the question more than most, and most of the time it is asked in relation to the community or county at large rather than a particular enterprise. Fortunately for me, being in Newton, I have an honest and favorable response to the question at the ready.
The business climate in Newton is good in its own right, but particularly as we compare ourselves to other communities of similar size and circumstances.
Thanks largely to the work of the Harvey County Economic Development Council, area manufacturers have completed, or are moving forward with, expansion plans. These include: AGCO Corp., Hesston; Park Aerospace Materials Corp., Airport; Future Foam, Newton; Legg Co., Halstead; Millennium Machine and Tool, Newton; Concrete Vaults, Newton; WB Services, Sedgwick; and Martin Machine and Welding, Halstead. A non-manufacturing example, but still providing positive economic impact is the expansion of Kansas Electric in Harvey County.
The HCEDC also has aggressively been working to bring new manufacturers to the area. This, of course, includes the terrific announcements for the Kansas Logistics Park, but also IMMI, an exciting new enterprise in Burrton and a recent smaller new startup here in Newton, S&S Powerlift Doors Inc.
The jobs added by these companies, large or small, whether expansions or new operations, create other employment opportunities. Manufacturing growth translates to spin-off jobs in a wide variety of supportive services, including in the retail sector. It also means greater opportunities for corporate philanthropy and related support for social services.
Another clear indicator that demonstrates business confidence is the robust growth going on at the airport. This jewel of an economic catalyst on the city’s east side continues to add businesses and jobs through the up and the down cycles in the national and state economies.
Newton area restaurants, both those locally grown and owned, along with the national named ones, seem to be doing well with increased business. Several have completed expanded facilities in response to, and in anticipation of, increased customer traffic. These increases often stem directly from growth in the industrial sector.
Another bright spot in terms of economic benefit for the community is the Meridian Center. According to General Manager Michael Lunsford, “The booking frequency at the Meridian Center has met our expectations and is increasing at a steady rate.”
Lunsford is very happy with the number of planners of large meetings and conferences who have expressed interest and are coming to Newton. He says the groups they represent have a strong economic impact on the community. A number of these groups have been unwilling or unable to come to Newton in previous years.
As we continue to compete for new business, the respect that our various government agencies have for one another, which translates to cooperation and support, is a rarity for most communities and regions. This relationship, coupled with shovel-ready real estate, a strong transportation network, including connection by rail to an inland port, provide us a clear competitive advantage.
According to Roger Ahrens, general manager of Full Vision Inc., “The recession gave everyone (in manufacturing) a chance to regroup, refocus and strengthen our business. Although there are some exceptions, for most area manufacturers, business is brisk.”
Newton/Harvey County has been aggressive in its approach to economic development. We are setting a high standard for the rest of the state. The instability of the financial markets and expanding regulations do constrain business growth to a degree, but Newton area industries and community leaders have been, and continue to be, opportunistic. The recession has provided an opportunity for us to gain market share, and we have seized that opportunity. The payoff for our community and area: job growth and being uniquely positioned for continued growth going forward.
Well then Newton, “How ya doin?” “Just fine thank you.”