Among the more interesting concepts offered up recently for Hutchinson is building a new 150-room hotel and convention center on the state fairgrounds.
While discussed briefly in the distant past this time, especially with our lackluster growth, major retailer abandonment and other store closures, even the thought of such a development along North Main, Plum Street or State Fair Road starts hearts pumping faster. This intriguing possibility must find someone willing to pour several million dollars into a town that has been hurting for convention business for quite some time.
That may be hard to do and so far the only interest shown for a new facility comes from owners of the existing Atrium. We badly need the tools to compete with what has been happening in Manhattan, Junction City, Garden City and Dodge City, not to mention our nearest competitor, Wichita, along with the adjacent Maize shopping corridor.
If a fairgrounds hotel and convention space could be landed, using the same tax stream already in place and going to the fading Atrium complex, the new development would be a big plus for the salt city. Fair facilities already bring dozens of organizations and groups to town for livestock and other gatherings that could and probably would use a modern, attractive new motel on the same property, giving the facility a built-in occupancy.
Right now, unfortunately, that seems highly unlikely. In our quest to do something really exciting, however, and considering our already burdensome sales and property tax load, public officials shouldn't go too wild in offering break the bank taxpayer incentives.
It's always a fine line between competing for new attractions and job creation versus waving taxes for some and forcing higher costs on others.
Helping brighten Hutchinson's future are plans by Gene Zaid of Genzada in Sterling for a multi-story office complex at 30th and Plum to replace the vacant Dillons Northgate property; a strong and expanding medical community including recent upgrading at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center; continued new orders at Siemens Gamesa Wind Power; reopening of Kansas Protein in our eastside industrial district; several projects close to announcement by the Chamber of Commerce that can't, yet, be talked about publicly and, of course, Hutchinson's two premier attractions that other cities would give their eyeteeth for -- the Cosmosphere and Underground Salt Museum (Strataca).
It's easy to become a cynic with all those, at last count 26, vacant for sale or lease retail and other building signs. But resist the temptation of letting that get you down. It's easy to fall into a trap of discouragement when we see all those Weigand signs around town but positive things are happening.
While some are suggesting that Hutchinson's new flag, now being developed, should have a giant light switch ready to be turned off when the last person leaves town, something a lot more optimistic would be more appropriate and in keeping with the spirit needed to keep our community alive and viable.
Dan Deming, former general manager of Hutchinson radio station KWBW, is retired and is a Reno County Commissioner. He can be reached at 620-960-6733. Email him at email@example.com.