The city of McPherson has seen job and business expansion as the nation continued its slow recession recovery in 2013.
McPherson Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Burch said three new businesses had been funded by the McPherson County Entrepreneurship Loan Program, creating 10 new jobs.
Two other businesses used the loan program for new ownership or expansion.
“Since 2011,” Burch said, ”we have loaned out $145,000 to 13 new business startups or expansions, creating over 60 jobs.”
Businesses that opened in 2013 include Genesis Health Club, Taco John’s, Factory Connection, Next Level Gymnastics, Stupka Chiropractic, Callabresi Heating and Cooling, Mac Quality Air, Cornerstone Premier Real Estate and Little Caesar’s.
Burch said while there were some empty spaces on Main Street, she liked to think of them as opportunities.
“We’re lucky to have so many locally owned mom-and-pop businesses,” Burch said, “and it’s important to have a mix of those and big box franchise businesses, like Sears and Little Caesar’s.”
Kevin Sales, who opened Mac Quality Air in May with stepson Jeff Wilson as his partner, said they saw an opportunity after being downsized three years ago.
“We decided this was a good time to do it,” Sales said. “Jeff has been in this line of work for 15 years, and I owned the McDonald’s franchise in Lyons until I sold it in 1998. Seeing as how people here were having people as far away as Wichita come do their work, we felt like there was a market here for us.”
Sales said with no advertising, his business has seen success thanks to a dedication to excellent customer service and community word of mouth.
“Finding a place to set up shop wasn’t the easiest thing in the world,” Sales said. “It seemed like everything in town was either too high priced or unsuitable.”
Sales and Wilson eventually settled on gutting an old restaurant at 501 N. 81 Bypass to serve as their business location.
Tod Emerson started Cornerstone Premier Real Estate after working as an agent in the area for eight years.
Emerson said he thought about and prayed on whether he should start his own agency in McPherson.
“Eventually God made the whole thing come together,” Emerson said.
Emerson said since opening shop in June, business has been fantastic.
“It’s been great,” Emerson said. “I have four agents on board with two more coming in the next couple of months. If we had someone with their Real Estate license apply right now, we would certainly consider them for employment. It’s the busiest I’ve been in my career.”
Page 2 of 3 - Emerson said the biggest challenge he faced in starting the business was the cost of remodeling and furnishing his offices at 119 W. First St.
“I had to gut it because it just didn’t have enough offices,” Emerson said. “I put a lot of money into remodeling the building, and into things like furniture. There are a lot of things you have to think about when starting a company, but it’s been great and we’re running all over. We also serve the whole United States via referrals.”
McPherson Industrial Development Company Executive Direct Brad Eilts said the strengthening economy has been a key part of McPherson’s industrial growth.
“What we saw a few years back was an economic shakeup,” Eilts said. “We weren’t hit as hard by the financial shakeup as a lot of areas. When some of the national industrial competitors fell out, our businesses picked up.”
Eilts said McPherson’s low-cost operating environment was another key to continued industrial success.
“When other companies are trying to economize,” Eilts said, “ours here are operating very efficiently.”
Eilts said a seeming resurgence of manufacturing in the U.S. was another contributing factor to continued industrial growth.
“Some of that manufacturing work that went to places like China has come back,” Eilts said. “When you look at the cost of operation and the 15 to 18 percent raise in wages for employees over there on average, enough of those increases make the U.S. look better all the time.”
Eilts said a strengthening housing market has been good for local industry.
“Look at Johns Manville and CertainTeed,” Eilts said. “Business dipped down, but it’s on the rise now, and they’re generally optimistic. Ultrafab, Central States Marketing and Manufacturing, Viega, and other housing-related businesses are seeing an upward trend.”
Eilts said Hospira had a good year, and National Cooperative Refinery Association’s expansion projects, including its $555 million coker upgrade, would keep McPherson strong in the energy market.
Eilts said McPherson’s current challenge is filling new job positions as the area’s industries grow.
“Companies are creating new jobs instead of just filling current ones,” Eilts said. “With all the industrial layoffs in Wichita, I wish we had a bullet train between Wichita and here. We have an excellent workforce here already, we just have industry demand to try to fill. There are a lot of great career opportunities here, and if we had access to more of those employees we could be even more exceptional.”
Eilts said the McPherson City Commission’s focus on housing was crucial.
Page 3 of 3 - “Part of getting and retaining new employees is becoming where they live,” Eilts said. “The city commission has passed some solid plans. Housing is important to our long-term sustainability and for growth. We’re fortunate here. This is an area with good work ethics and skills, we just need more people.”