By Patricia Middleton

Staff Writer

INMAN — Zach Davidson has served as Inman's economic development coordinator for just a few weeks, but he is eager to share the town's potential for growth.

A graduate of Wichita State University, Davidson is originally from Salina.

"I'm happy to be back closer to home," Davidson said. "This is the part of Kansas I grew up in."

For the past two years, he lived and worked south of Houston, Texas.

"I was there during Harvey. I have a number of friends down there. Some of them had their homes flooded. I was lucky enough, I didn't," Davidson said.

Now an Inman resident, Davidson is working on a new website for the town that will launch early next year.

"That's a large part of the job," Davidson said. "Marketing Inman, putting the name out there and getting businesses to come to town."

He has been talking with city officials to see what industries Inman needs to come in and support future growth.

"We're looking at light manufacturing. We have the land for it," Davidson said. "We have some other small businesses that we need here in Inman. One of them would be childcare."

Loans, tax incentives and tax abatements offered at the state and local level play a major part in successful business recruitment.

"I know that we have a lot of land and a lot of opportunity for new businesses," Davidson said. "The county's doing well economically, so we're in a good position to recruit some new businesses to come to town, which brings people to town, which brings families, which puts kids in our schools, which grows our tax base — it's good all the way around."

There is some work to be done to attract businesses. Some looking at Inman as a possible option for their location may not want or be able to invest in building a brand new structure.

"We have a lack of ready-made commercial rental properties right now and that's something we're going to take a look at and see what we can do," Davidson said. "That would be the one big challenge I see right now."

The retention of existing businesses is also a focus for Davidson, who said he will be researching ways to secure grants and encourage more people to work in Inman.

"It's a great community," Davidson said. "We've got an awesome school. Our teacher to student ratio is amazing."

Creating homes for newcomers to Inman is another aspect of the town's development that Davidson will tackle.

"We do have a lack of workforce housing here in town, so we'll be working on getting grants and different stuff like that for housing," Davidson said. "Right now, we have four or five new houses going up on the southeast side of town — we'd like to increase that."

As industry in McPherson County grows, finding affordable housing seems to be an issue, not only in Inman, but in neighboring communities as well.

"I know that's something the county is looking at. It's kind of a challenge across the entire area," Davidson noted.

Inman offers amenities for those wanting the small-town life or an easy commute to a larger city.

"We do have a great museum, and I think that's something we'd like to market," Davidson said. "We do have a great cafe and we have a great pizza place."

Inman residents are within an hour's drive of five cities — Salina, McPherson, Newton, Hutchinson and Wichita — which offer a wealth of employment opportunities.

"We're in a great location with our proximity to large population centers, one of which is growing economically by leaps and bounds," Davidson said. "Throw in that we're in the middle of the country and right by an interstate."

That interstate access is another selling point when it comes to bringing new businesses to Inman.

"We have a four-lane highway right outside of town that goes straight to an interstate, so mobility is easily accessible. We also have a rail that runs straight through the heart of Kansas," Davidson said. "There may be companies where land's too expensive in Wichita, but they still want to be in the area. We have the international airport there. It's a great location. They can come right up the road."

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.