Randy Riggs is no stranger to good economic news.
Witness last week, when the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded Newton, the city he manages, more than $2.4 million for street improvements at the Kansas Logistics Park.
It's the latest development in the city and Harvey County's aggressive move to pull businesses — specifically wind energy businesses — to the community.
But Riggs, who replaced Jim Heinicke as city manager almost three years ago, rejects the notion that his city is only about local success.
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What's good for Newton is good for Harvey County, Wichita, south-central Kansas and even the broader I-35 corridor from Kansas City to San Antonio, Riggs said.
"We're just not thinking about Newton. Economic development doesn't stick to tidy political boundaries," Riggs said.
"We look at maps when we talk about being on a major growth corridor," he said, gesturing to a North Carolina State study identifying the nation's top business growth corridors, including I-35.
"We're paying attention to these bigger maps. It's not Harvey County. It's not Newton. It's not Kansas. It's all of those, plus."
Your initial economic development successes have centered around wind energy. Why?
"Timing makes a big difference and just the nature of the wind industry and things that are happening there.
"It's also very important because of location, location, location. There is a strong desire of people in the wind industry to try to get closer to the places where the wind parks and farms will go in.
"It's all about their costs. I've been told the cost of shipping and storing these large parts necessary for a wind turbine is more than the price of the materials themselves.
"In order to reduce costs, they need staging areas and factories close to where the wind farms are going to be.
"That customer proximity counts. And they say they want to be less than 500 miles away from where the action is. When you draw a circle at 500 miles, the whole wind corridor is at their doorstep via rail and trucking right here at the Kansas Logistics Park."
You don't see economic development as a community-by-community competition. Why?
"We're absolutely thrilled, for example, by the Siemens announcement in Hutch. That is a definite victory for us.
"With Reno County and Hutch, there's a lot of camaraderie, seeing our mutual interests linked with a short little span of highway good for businesses serving those who locate in Hutch and in Newton.
"Honestly, we haven't had much time to focus on the south yet. It will be very big for all of us in our concept, the work force is to the south of us. There is a whole lot of applicability from the aviation world to the businesses locating in Newton, Hutchinson and other areas. We have to be partners that get along."
What attracted you to Newton when you came here from Chanute, where you served as city manager?
"It was very attractive in my mind to see a community willing to invest in itself, and that shows signs of a community with a common vision where they wanted to go and how they wanted to grow. There were and still are people all over this community who are very interested in being involved and making a difference.
"They understand that the future depends on them and they're willing to step up and say so.
"And then location. Central Kansas is a good place to be, and that was attractive."
Where is Newton headed economically?
"We have several subdivisions to the south. Naturally, we've slowed like everyone else because of the economy, but we have multiple subdivisions in place for residential growth.
"At 26th and South Kansas, we have a new fire station in... that I think may be the symbol that says to visitors we are a community that is growing and investing in itself, and I think that will spur more growth."
How will Newton's economic relationship with Wichita evolve over the next few years?
"I think that when you look at the traffic patterns, it's a tight relationship already.
"We are a part of the Metropolitan Statistical Area. We are a part of the Wichita region, and just physically, the Wichita area is getting closer to us and we are getting closer to them.
"It's not about us and them anymore. I see us as a region."