Hesston took center stage at September's monthly chamber breakfast, with a joint event between the Newton and Hesston Chambers of Commerce hosted at Hesston College on Friday.

Change was a focal point of the presentation — with a number of the community improvements being highlighted by Hesston College faculty (including new president Joseph Manickam), city staff and other organizations heavily involved.

Gary Emry, Hesston city administrator, spoke of some of the most prominent activity — including the $47.6 million that has been invested in economic development over the last few years — going towards the Hesston Industrial Park and other local business endeavors.

Additionally, $6.8 million has been dedicated to recreation, most notably in pursuing new sports complexes for baseball, softball and soccer, as well as an aquatic center. Though completion of the latter has been delayed, Emry noted Friday that work on the new sports facilities should be wrapping up in the late fall as planned.

Improvements are in store (or have already happened) for emergency services and public works as well, the latter part of an organizational shift — creating at least one new position, Public Works Director — for administrative operations. All this has been undertaken in an effort to address the goal Emry noted he set out for Hesston when he took the city administrator position, "quality of life for the community."

Taking care of local businesses is part of that, with some of that funding of economic development directed towards such establishments. A number of those were focused on as part of the joint chamber breakfast — looking at the the dealings of Hesston College, Schowalter Villa and Excel Industries.

Attendees at the chamber breakfast on Friday had the option of touring one of the three, either exploring the college campus, learning about Schowalter Villa's Private Home for Everyone campaign or being guided through the Excel plant.

One of the largest employers not only in Hesston, but in Harvey County overall, those who toured Excel saw behind-the-scenes of a business that is constantly churning out products. Director of Safety and Security Andy Wray noted the plant has 700 employees split between two shifts, with the business able to turn out 450 units per day.

Products manufactured by Excel include Big Dog and Hustler mowers, as well as the new MDV utility vehicle. Through a mix of both automated and manual processes, the manufacturer manages a quick turnaround with products completed and shipped out on "milk runs" (with parts coming back in return — though some, like those for the new MDV, are stored in Hesston) to its warehouse in Edgerton on a daily basis.

Between the established businesses continuing to move forward and the change being facilitated by community organizations, there is much being done to address those "quality of life" needs in Hesston.