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Blake Benson
Blake Benson is the President of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce. The Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce welcomes your thoughts and ideas on how to make our community even more special. Feel free to call at (620) 231-1000, visit them on the web at www.pittsburgareachamber.com, or drop by the office at 117 West Fourth Street.
Chamber of Commerce
2011-02-01 14:09:00
Looking ahead to 2011
Answer: With 2011 in full swing, it’s an exciting time to be in Pittsburg and Southeast Kansas. While much of the nation’s economy limped through the last year, many Pittsburg area businesses and institutions saw significant growth that will serve us well into this year and beyond. Via Christi Hospital further solidified Pittsburg’s position as the regional medical center of southeast Kansas with a $1 million upgrade to the hospital’s Heart Center. The investment coincides with other improvements totaling more than $7.1 million. The hospital’s foundation has also announced an effort to raise $1.2 million to construct a new, comprehensive Women’s Center. Miller’s Professional Imaging, the nation’s largest professional photography lab, is in the midst of a $1.5 million expansion that will add over 11,000 square feet to the Miller’s campus on Jefferson Street. The project will add storage space and should include some renovation of office and lab space. Company officials project that sales could top $90 million this year. Not bad for a business that began above Bill Miller’s downtown Pittsburg studio in 1964. Recent expansions have also created new jobs at Sugar Creek Packing Company, Progressive Products and Kendall Packaging. The growth of one of the region’s primary economic engines, Pittsburg State University, shows no end in sight. The university continued its track record of impressive growth last year, sporting a record fall enrollment of 7,277 students. This growth spawned eight construction projects over the summer, including the new Crimson Commons residence halls, a $10 million, five-building project housing 200 students. Projects like these will enable Pittsburg State to continue growing and reaching out to high-growth areas in this part of the country. Downtown Pittsburg got a significant boost recently, as Garrison Development Company completed a $9.4 million renovation of the historic Besse Hotel into 46 units of downtown apartment housing just last month. This location of 50 additional families within walking distance of our downtown shops, restaurants and professional offices should have a significant economic impact on the district. If you haven’t visited our downtown area in a while, I encourage you to make it a day trip and see what our local businesses have to offer. A longtime vision for the economic development of southeast Kansas is one step closer to reality. With the Kansas legislature’s recent approval of an $8.2 billion transportation funding package, the effort to complete a four-lane Highway 69 from Kansas City to Interstate 44 is almost certain to see significant progress. The Highway 69 project has been one of the area’s top priorities for almost a century and stands to significantly alter the economic landscape of Southeast Kansas. The Kansas Department of Transportation is expected to announce in February which of the state’s projects will be included in the next transportation plan. 2011 will be a perfect time for the chamber to join the City of Pittsburg, Pittsburg State University and several other partners in a community visioning effort. It’s been a decade since we had a focused effort to develop such a vision and we look forward to engaging our community and listening to how it wants to grow. There’s still an uncertainty about the nation’s economy. However, projects like these and several others in the making will continue to lead our area to recovery.
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