By DEREK THOMPSON
Brad Nading/Telegram An outdoor seating area, shown in November 2010, has been added on the roof of the new addition to Samy's Spirits and Steakhouse at the Clarion Inn.
Derek Thompson/Telegram Mike Ward, left, owner of Ward's Garden Center, and Pam Washington, manager, stand behind the counter of Ward's Garden Cafe in February 2011. An expansion of the eating area is currently under way.
Brad Nading/Telegram Kelly King, shown in March 2011, is the owner of We Klik Photography, a new studio located at 621 N. Main St.
Brad Nading/Telegram Owner Shonda Collins, shown in September 2010, and her employees are celebrating 30 years in business for Wheatfield's on Main, 309 N. Main St.
Brad Nading/Telegram A construction crew works on creating the steel framework for the top floor of the new Golden Plains Credit Union building in April 2011. The structure is located east of the current building.
Brad Nading/Telegram Mauritta Adams, right, shown in May 2010, has opened Mauritta's Cafe at 416 N. Main St.
Brad Nading/Telegram Karson Brenneman feeds a film's negative through a machine while preparing a movie for viewing in a projection room at the Sequoyah 9 Theaters in June 2010.
Local economic officials are optimistic that local business development will continue to increase in 2011 as major industrial events move forward.
Last year saw several Garden City businesses take advantage of low building costs and move forward with construction and major renovations. In October, Golden Plains Credit Union broke ground on a nearly 50,000-square-foot corporate headquarters valued at $7.4 million. After nine months and millions of dollars in remodeling and repair, Mitchell Theatres Sequoyah 8 completed renovations at the former Dickinson Theaters. Tractor Supply Co. broke ground on a Garden City location, which opened in March 2011.
Based off Finney County Economic Development Corp. surveys and face-to-face interactions — which FCEDC President Eric Depperschmidt admits are "not a scientific method" — Finney County had a total of about 20 new businesses. Those numbers include local "mom and pop" stores and "big box stores such as Tractor Supply."
Depperschmidt and other economic officials take into account a variety of indicators when gauging economic success: sales tax revenue, building construction, capital investments, jobs created, unemployment rates, airport passenger activity, school numbers, housing sales, and permits and valuations.
About 85 full-time jobs were created in 2010, about half of which were in retail and half in the industrial sector. That number was down from more than 100 jobs created in 2009.
According to figures from the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce, retail sales were $492.7 million through December 2010, down $18.6 million from that period in 2009.
"Overall, we're very happy with the returns that we saw," Depperschmidt said. "But we're always wanting to do better, and I think that reflects the overall economic situation in the United States right now, too."
Paul Joseph, chamber president, echoes Depperschmidt: "All in all, it was a good, strong year for Garden City."
Looking ahead to 2011 and beyond, the planned Sunflower expansion factors heavily into economic forecasts.
In mid-December, Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials announced they would grant a much-anticipated air quality permit to Sunflower, the Hays-based regional wholesale supplier, to construct an 895-megawatt coal-fired generating unit at its existing plant, four miles south of Holcomb.
"A lot of our development has been on pause based on the Sunflower project, and with that seeing some movement forward, we've started seeing people (begin development)," Joseph said.
Garden City was at one time one of the fastest growing communities of its size in the country, according to Depperschmidt. In the 1980s, when Tyson Fresh Meats, formerly Iowa Beef Processors, Inc., opened a plant in Finney County, the area saw tremendous growth. Depperschmidt compares that boom to what the area could again experience if Sunflower breaks ground in 14 months.
Later this year, in the months prior to the expansion, momentum and optimism about the project would spur development as construction becomes imminent, Joseph predicts.
"It will be a different town," Joseph said.
The planned expansion has been met with opposition from the environmental group, the Sierra Club, but both Joseph and Depperschmidt are confident construction will not be obstructed. If it is, "we'll continue to track the national economy, and we will see a slow, continual improvement in finances in the community," Joseph said.
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