Economic stats for 2014

First printed in the Lincoln Sentinel in December, 2014

Being that it’s the end of the year and I’ve just surpassed my 6-month anniversary on the job (how did that happen so fast?!), I had the very un-original idea of doing a ‘year-end review’ on economic development in the county.

Over the past few years (perhaps even more than that) the local economy took a few hits leaving a bit of a dark cloud in its wake. I have sensed this dark cloud as I began the job and talked to people about their thoughts and concerns. But 2014 was good, dare I say really good, good enough that a few stats serve as bright rays of sunshine poking big holes in that dark doomsday cloud.

So here are a few stats:

  • At least seven new businesses opened in the county this past year. That includes two new businesses in Sylvan Grove (Fly Boy Brewery & Eats and the Sylvan Grove Nature Shop), four new businesses in Lincoln (MNJ Excavating, Precision Electric, O’Hare Law, and Dollar General), and one in Beverly (Terrapin Station);
  • At least three successful business transitions including new ownership (and major renovations) at the Post Rock Motel, Dr. Willie Knapp’s dental practice being purchased by Dr. Steve Geist, and new ownership at the local chiropractic clinic creating Heller Chiropractic Clinic;
  • At least three business expansions including US Tower continuing to move operations and employees from their California location to Lincoln (with further expansion planned in 2015), Keever Auto expanding into their own newly renovated space, and Crop Services in Beverly constructing a new building;
  • And one I-don’t-know-how-to-classify-this-but-it’s-important being Tallgrass Energy Partners opening of their Pony Express pipeline and pumping station which has pumped significant revenue into our motel, restaurants, convenience stores, and additional businesses.

If you look at the list of businesses above, it’s easy to add up the direct and indirect impacts into millions of dollars that have been invested here in 2014 alone. If you’re looking strictly at jobs numbers, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics recently showed that between October of 2013 and 2014, Lincoln County gained 50 new jobs with our unemployment rate falling to 3.4% (for the overall state of Kansas it’s 4.0%, and nationally it’s 5.8%).

As for the Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation (LCEDF), we have had a successful year ourselves. Our revolving loan fund contributed $205,000 worth of financing to local businesses. Seven businesses received Business Revitalization Grants to go towards exterior improvements. We sold the former X-Factor building which will bring another new business in to the county in the coming year. And through the Countywide Strategic Planning Session and its follow-up task force meetings, at least 113 individuals have attended meetings, shared their ideas, and helped to set the priorities that our organization is now working towards.

All of these stats are very encouraging as I look towards the year ahead. People see opportunity here. And in fact there IS opportunity here. If there wasn’t we wouldn’t have the stats above. Of course there is a trick to finding it. If it was easy we would all be millionaires. But like Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.” The business owners and individuals who have been a part of the list above have their overalls on and are priming the pumps for another good year ahead.

If you have any questions about the stats above or would like to put on some overalls of your own to make some opportunities happen, please feel free to stop by the LCEDF office in the county courthouse basement at 216 E. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln, give me a call at 785-524-8954, or email me at lcedfdirector@outlook.com.

Kelly Larson
Executive Director
Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation