In the most recent election, there was lots of discussion about how to build a better, brighter future for SE Kansas.
Some see an extension of U.S. Highway 69 as a four-lane highway to be a critical component. Others see the need to make SE Kansas, and all of Kansas, for that matter, a more hospitable place to encourage and develop new business, and to recruit and import developers with an entrepreneurial spirit. These things matter.
So does the fact that the single largest engine of economic growth and stability for SE Kansas has been, and will continue to be, Pittsburg State University.
If we are to hitch our little engine to another which will drive the future of the region in unmistakably positive ways, it is Pitt State’s engine of economic opportunity that is the surest bet.
A recent study conducted by Municipal Consulting, Inc. makes that very point.
It recognizes the enormous impact and potential future impact of an expanded and even more lively university here in Pittsburg.
The unassailable conclusion of the study is that if Pitt State expands, both in its physical size and student size to a 10,000-student university in the next 20 years, it will have a very positive economic impact on the community.
It will create not only several hundred construction jobs, but better yet, several hundred permanent jobs. The resulting infusion of over $16 million of new tax revenue to the City of Pittsburg will have its own dramatic effect.
To ensure this outcome, the college is seeking to partner with the community in a new and innovative way, by involving the city in the financing of the new and expanded Weede event center.
In short, Pitt State is seeking to join hands with the City of Pittsburg in an historically unique and previously untried way.
It may just be an idea whose time has come.
If a Fortune 500 company came to the city council with a proposal to build a new factory in Pittsburg which would have a cumulative $1 billion impact on the region, the City Commissioners would be falling all over each other to line up to support it.
This proposal should not be treated any differently.
It would be wonderful if Chrysler, for example, decided to rehab the old McNally tool and die plant here, and create a couple of hundred jobs.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for that one.
You’d be pretty blue in the face, waiting to exhale before that dream came true.
But the Pitt State dream of a 10,000-student university in 20 years, is far from a pipe dream.
It is grounded in reality, and driven by the forces which have been thus far successful in a myriad of ways in making PSU a standout among small universities, and a place with much promise and potential.
Page 2 of 2 - If someone announced that they would be developing a new 3,000-student college here in Pittsburg, the news would be greeted with euphoria. An expansion of the current college by that size should be greeted no less enthusiastically.
So, when it comes to expanding the Weede into a regional convention and first-rate indoor sports facility, the need, and the promise of what it will bring to the area, is self evident.
The new arts center and the newly expanded Overman Student Center will be a big help in achieving that dream, and thanks to a herculean effort by the current college administration, funds for those projects are pretty well in the bag. The Event Center, however, is another story.
The degree of state support for new construction and growth on any of Kansas State University’s campuses is dwindling, given the budget austerities and choices being made in Topeka these days to cut taxes, and thus revenue, to presumably spur growth.
Time will tell whether this is the right or wrong approach. I have my doubts, but it is the approach being taken by Gov. Brownback and his supporters, so we had best recognize that fact, and figure out a way around it.
I do know one thing, however: Municipal partnering with the University to help float the bonds to build university facilities which will come back to benefit the whole community as a many faceted blessing is a brilliant idea.
It is innovative, bold, and pioneering. It personifies all the good things about the can do spirit of Kansans, and it is an approach to the future growth and prosperity of the region that is neither pie in the sky, nor a pig in a poke.
It represents a real, substantial, and sustainable path to progress for the whole region.
Let’s embrace it, and join with President Scott and his movers and shakers, and in so doing, ensure a brighter future for Pittsburg, the city, the college, and the region. The little engine is approaching the tracks, and bigger engines await.
All aboard, City Commissioners?
— John Sullivan