When Bob Kreutzer, vice chairman of the Finney County Economic Development Corporation, addressed the FCEDC annual meeting Monday at Garden City Community College, he shared that "magic things happen when we all get on the rope and pull together."

The most recent part of that magic is the announcement that Empirical Foods will be locating a facility in Garden City with 300 jobs.

The Empirical project almost didn't happen. Before an Aug. 8, 2018, visit to Garden City, Empirical planned to locate the facility in Amarillo, Texas. The FCEDC went to work and within three hours had convinced officials to look at Garden City as well as Amarillo, said Lona DuVall, FCEDC president and CEO.

Workforce was a major consideration in choosing a site for the new Empirical facility.

The FCEDC received letters of support from its partners, the city of Garden City, city of Holcomb, Finney County and Garden City Community College, as well as support letters from the FCEDC board and state legislators.

"Everybody came to the table and said 'yes, we will stand with you if you locate here,' " DuVall said.

It is this kind of cooperation that is making things happen in Garden City.

Other factors in bringing Empirical to Garden City include community development, public and private relationships with FCEDC, workforce development and infrastructure.

Finding a site for the facility required the cooperation of FCEDC with Transload, Wheatland Electric, City of Garden City utilities, Garden City and Holcomb school districts and Garden City Community College to establish workforce development programs. The FCEDC provided site mapping, commuting patterns, raw product availability, lodging and services mapping, child care information for the workforce, housing demand analysis for local contractors and much more to make the facility a reality in Garden City, DuVall said.

State agencies involved in the project were the Kansas Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce and Department of Health and Environment.

The site for Empirical is another example of cooperation. That site is part of 50 acres Finney County rezoned and has produced from $250 million to $300 million with 300 new jobs, not counting Empirical.

When Empirical begins construction, it will bring in some 300 contractors and their workers. This will provide an additional economic boost to the community restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, convenience stores and other businesses.

The Empirical facility is just one of the projects FCEDC has helped bring to Garden City. DuVall said other cities and state representatives have come to the FCEDC and asked how it does what it does. A big part of that answer is cooperation among many agencies. It's that cooperation that makes projects like Empirical, Sports of the World Complex and others a reality in Garden City.

Besides new businesses in Garden City, other markers reveal the growth that is happening in the city and county. Shannon Dick, FCEDC strategic analyst, said there were many growth indicators showing Garden City and Finney County were doing as well or better than growth areas in the middle and eastern portions of the state.

The transient guest tax is up 12% from last year at over $800 million. Enplanements at Dodge City Regional airport have been steadily climbing since 2010 from 10,000 to just over 25,000 a year. Finney County sales tax has also increased from 2010 from $6 million to $10.8 million in 2019. There were big jumps in sales tax in 2018 and 2019. Property valuations were up 3% in 2019 with an increase from about $240 million in 2010 to $383 million in 2019 with an increase every year.

Job Growth, gross domestic product, increase trade area and many other areas are showing positive numbers, including 1,400 additional jobs in the last five years; median household income growth of 6.4% since 2017; Finney County upward mobility ranking in the top third in the nation; population growth of 17% since 2010; Garden City's primary trade area at over 200,000 people; 2019 seeing the largest regular sales tax collection in history; the city's mill rate staying essentially flat for 10 years; $18 million in public investment in infrastructure leading to $400 million in private investment; and 2,800 people commuting to Garden City every day for work.

There are areas of need in the community. With the population growth, Garden City needs one new housing unit every three days for the next 10 years, Dick said. Day care is needed, as is expansion of infrastructure to handle the growing increase in truck traffic.

Election of FCEDC Board of Directors officers elected for 2020 are Tom Walker-Finney, Finney County representative, chairman; Kreutzer, Finney County representative, vice-chairman; and Phil Escareno, City of Garden City representative, secretary-treasurer.