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Director's Dialogue: Dodge City's Economic Growth Teaches Lessons

By: Erik Pedersen | November 19, 2014
Dodge City's economic growth

This November I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon in Dodge City and hearing a presentation by Joann Knight, Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation Director, and William Fruth, POLICOM Corporation, about the "Economic Strength of Dodge City.”

Long story short, according to POLICOM's evaluation metrics, Dodge City has grown from the 260th strongest micro-economy in '04 to the 21st strongest micro-economy in '14, so congratulations are in order. There were several graphs and charts to support the metrics, but I felt that a handful of points Mr. Fruth made helped paint the picture best. At the same time, I knew these points were applicable across virtually all of the E-Communities with which we partner.

Keys to Dodge City’s Economic Success

  • Recognizing that manufacturing has the overall greatest impact on an economy. (I was struck with truly how great the economic impact of a 250-job manufacturer was in a community. According to POLICOM data, it may create another 425 jobs in retail, healthcare, wholesale & transportation, finance & professional, etc..)
  • Aggressively funding an active economic development program to focus on startups, retention and recruitment.
  • Having an abundant supply of available land that can be building-permit ready within 90 days.
  • Providing a trained or trainable workforce. (Fruth was very intentional about the importance of an interactive, open relationship between the business community and the university, community college and/or technical college to learn what type of workers are needed.)
  • Reducing the costs to your primary employers as much as is legally possible. (Fruth felt strongly that retention of industry is the most important thing so work to influence the geographic economic issues such as taxes, health care, utilities, labor costs and reliability, etc.)
  • Avoiding the goal of creating low-wage jobs. According to Fruth, creating low-wage jobs should never be the goal. (Amazing fact: from '91 to ‘00, 25M new jobs were created. Only 19 percent paid above average national wage.)

At some point between my grilled chicken sandwich (my daughter will be proud that I chose that over a hamburger) and the huge cookie that was our dessert (ok, she's no longer as proud), I remembered another presentation I saw, at the Kansas Marketplace Conference in 2010. In that, I heard Joann say "Dodge City chose not to participate in the recession.” I know it was tongue-in-cheek but the point was that they had not only survived but had thrived. I strongly suspect that if the Dodge City leadership went back and graded themselves on how they did on the points Mr. Fruth delivered, whether it was intentional or not, it would be a pretty decent report card.

Have a great day!

Erik Pedersen @EPedersenKS

Check back next month for the latest from the Director's seat.