Area continues to prosper

By Walt Braun

Manhattan is hardly floating in money. Most household budgets are tight, and so is the city budget.

Thus it was good to learn earlier this week that sales tax receipts in recent months have exceeded expectations and that revenues for 2011 were not only better than expected but were up more than 5 percent from last year. That’s the case even after adjusting for the revenue committed to the tax increment financing bonds for the north downtown redevelopment area.

What all this comes down to is that area residents have been buying. They’ve been buying big-ticket items like automobiles and they’ve been buying more routine items such clothing, household goods and, of course, groceries.

One of the reasons people have been buying is that the area’s unemployment rate is among the state’s best. Though wages in many instances could be higher, the Manhattan Metropolitan Statistical Area’s most recent jobless rate of 5 percent was the lowest of any such area in the state. For statistical purposes, the Manhattan area consists of Riley, Pottawatomie and Geary counties. All are prospering, at least in part because of growth at Fort Riley.

Riley County’s jobless rate is 4.2 percent; so, by the way, is Manhattan’s, which places Manhattan second among Kansas cities.

The state’s unemployment rate of 6 percent is high by comparison to Riley County and Manhattan, but it’s more than 2 percentage points lower than the national rate.

Manhattan might not be the flashiest of places, but then that’s never really been a good measure of success.

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