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Garden City And Southwest Kansas

Garden City was settled in 1878 and incorporated in 1883. The Sante Fe Railroad running nearby helped its early growth. Over the last century the area's growth and development has been very consistent and conservative. The area has been known as a strong agricultural community with a history of reliability, dependability, and hard work. More recently the strong agricultural base has been expanded to include a significant beef-packing industry. There are serveral modern cattle slaughter and processing plants in Garden City, Dodge City, and LIberal. These three Southwest Kansas Cities process over 100,000 head of cattle each week; this is over 15% of the entire U.S. cattle slaughter. The largest of these, Iowa Beef Processors, is located just outside of Garden City at the town of Holcomb. As a result, since 1980 the population of Garden City has increased thirty-two percent to 24,097 in 1994. Garden City is the county seat of Finney County. The County has experienced a thirty-nine percent growth since 1980 with a total population of 33,070 in 1990. The growth has continued at this level since 1990.

The city is the regional economic and cultural base of Southwest Kansas. The region consists of many small agricultural communities and unincorporated rural settlements. The southwest sector of the state has 121,835 people in 1990, far more than the west central sector of 28,056 and the northwest sector of 38,385. Garden City's strong growth pattern is due to its diverse economic foundation and rich composition of ethnic groups, which not only boosts its economy, but also enriches its cultural character. It has its own city-owned and supported zoo (one of 3 in Kansas), a large buffalo herd to the south of the city, and one of the world's largest swimming pools. The area has a significant number of historical and cultural institutions which help to further enhance the quality of life and support the infrastructure of the community. The city is 215 miles west of Wichita, 330 miles southwest of Topeka, and 309 miles east of Denver.

The historically solid agricultural base has continued since the settlement of the area in the late 1880's. However, because of grain production in the area and the development of large feedlots, the beef slaughter and processing industry has now become a very substantial component of the economic base of the area.

The largest single employer is Iowa Beef Processors with about 3,000 employees. The Unified School District Number 457 has about 1,000 employees with St. Catherine's Hospital having about 450 and Sunflower Electric employing 150. There are numerous agricultural support industries and businesses including seed, feed, fertilizer, animal handling firms and the like. Agriculture has been the fundamental industry in the past. It continues to be strong and there does not appear to be a significant reason for the base to be impaired. As the nation continues to grow, there will be an increasing need for food. In addition, with the unabated urbanization of the country, there is continual encroachment on agricultural land. Therefore, agricultural areas like Southwest Kansas are positioned for continued growth and development. As the food production and processing industries become more complex, additional support industries should also be attracted to the area.

Property valuation has risen steadily over the last four decades. In addition, the property level increase has been moderate. Over the last fifteen years the Finney County total labor force has grown in a very consistent manner. The unemployment rate has never exceeded five percent. The majority of the time it has been in the three- percent range. The relative unemployment level has been extremely low with a very small amount of variation. Finney County had the largest increase in population from 1980 to 1990 for any county in Kansas.

The increase from 1980 to 1990 for Garden City was thirty-two percent. According to Mr. Jim Neblett, Garden City Director for Planning and Community Development. The population in Finney County is expected to exceed 36,000 by the year 2000. Based on growth history, plus current development, this appears reasonable. The median age of inhabitants of Finney County is considerably below that compared to the State of Kansas (27.2 years vs. 32.9 years). This suggests that there will be more people of childbearing age leading towards more births and a further increase in population.

The City and County are currently experiencing a severe housing shortage due to the expansion of several local businesses. Studies estimate a current demand for 206 new single-family units and 144 new multifamily units per year for the next five years. This does not include the shortfall in housing the area is already experiencing.

The housing shortage in Garden City has affected the smaller area towns as well. Holcomb, Deerfield and Lakin, situated to the west of Garden City, all have new housing developments and each have several new ones planned. Other towns in Southwest Kansas are also experiencing a drastic shortage of housing, including Dodge City, Liberal, Kinsley, Sublette, Satanta, Montezuma and Cimarron.

See the Finney County Economic Development Corporation for further information.

Last Updated: 20-Jan-03
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