Garden City’s investment led to low unemployment


GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – The US only added 98,000 jobs last month, and unemployment is down to 4.5 percent, but it’s a different story in Garden City, where unemployment is just above 3 percent.

It required a big investment from the city.

“All of the infrastructure in the case of Schulman Crossing was paid for by the city of Garden City,” said Melinda Hitz, the city’s finance director.

In 2013, city officials set up tax increment financing, or a TIF district, for what is now the Schulman Crossing shopping center.

“They were in constant communication with retailers that wanted to come to Garden City, but just didn’t have a way to do it,” said Hitz. “They didn’t have the money to build all the infrastructure that would take for a building to go in.”

Garden City footed the bill with the approval of the county, school district, and community college — entities that would otherwise receive property taxes.

“There was a conscious effort by Garden City and Finney County and all the partners to step forward and become a regional center,” said Garden City Mayor Chris Law.

Property taxes on Schulman Crossing would pay off the city’s debt from building the infrastructure.

After 20 years those four entities will begin receiving their share of the property taxes. The hope is that community growth from the plaza would outweigh the loss in revenue.

“A study was done of the shopping area, how wide of an area we actually draw people from, and that’s pretty impressive,” said Law. “You look out, you draw in people from 100, 150 miles away.”

Officials credit Schulman Crossing with attracting other big projects and sources of jobs, like the dairy plant.

“You wouldn’t see things like this coming to Garden City if you didn’t have something that would attract people to come here,” said Hitz. “We needed to have something that would draw people to southwest Kansas.”

Hitz says the shopping center has also helped attract much-needed professionals, like doctors, to southwest Kansas.

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