I love to visit small towns that really get things right. When dealt a blow they regroup and go on better and stronger than before. When an opportunity comes by they seize the moment and are better for it. I had the opportunity, once again, to visit a town like this yesterday. It is Anthony Kansas. I will even expand it to Harper Kansas and all of Harper County.
The growth and vitality of these people are amazing especially in this economic climate and the state of rural America. To expand on the down side Anthony had a major fire in 2009 that took out most of a block of historic buildings and successful shops. The race track, Anthony Downs, closed after its 100th year and was torn down. buildings were starting to become vacant and there was turmoil about what to save and what to demolish. The county has always had a fierce rivalry between it's towns which sometimes stood in the way of progress. I call it the Mason Dixon line.
There have been some great opportunities and this whole area did not set on it's collective backside and ignore it. There is manufacturing that is expanding and creating jobs. The oil and gas boom has come to town creating the need for housing, food, and everything else associated with an influx of workers. The worlds largest single construction wind farm starts north west of Harper and extends clear back to Barber County. This created 100's of construction jobs and 30 permanent jobs.
There is a new 45 room Cobblestone Inn hotel in Anthony and another under construction in Harper. Both 1 million dollar projects with 8 full time jobs. Anthony has two new housing additions, one middle to upper scale.
There are new industrial businesses and three 1 million plus buildings going up on the North side of town. You will find new churches, and small business in a vibrant downtown district. Harper is adding housing and business also.
As we drove into Anthony for a tourism meeting you could feel the attitude of the town. The representatives who hosted the meeting were energetic and enthusiastic. It gave you a good feeling to be there. Attitudes are a great asset and have tendency to be passed on.
Driving around town there were businesses that many rural towns no longer have and we wondered why they were doing so well. Then it occurred to us. There is no Wal Mart. Fortunately either they have not come into the Wal Mart sights or they have managed to hold them off. Consultants will tell you that when Wal Mart moves in there are seven home owned businesses that usually shut down. These were all the businesses we found thriving downtown. They support families and create jobs.
The labor needs for the region probably contribute to the fact that the new jobs are higher paying and have benefits as opposed to the part time jobs with no benefits that Wal Mart brings.
I hope that the prosperity continues and that the Harper County towns stay as examples for the rest of rural America.
I give the HEE HAW salute to Anthony, Harper, Attica, and all Harper County---SAAALLUTTE!!!!!!!!!!