City’s growth slowing

By Bryan Richardson

Manhattan’s growth is starting to level off, an official with the Kansas State University finance department said on Wednesday morning.

Eric Higgins, head of the Kansas State University finance department, gave a report on the local economy to about 50 city and business officials at Hilton Garden Inn.

“Level off doesn’t mean bad,” he said. “It just means we’ve leveled off. Some of you probably saw this coming. We’ve had very rapid growth.”

Higgins compared the Manhattan metropolitan statistical area (MSA) to these other MSAs: Ames, Iowa; Boulder, Colo.; Columbia, Mo.; Kansas City area; Lawrence; Lincoln, Neb., and Wichita.

Manhattan’s 5.16-percent growth in population was the highest rate out of those MSAs in the four-year period (2010-13), which saw the MSA population go from 93,276 to 98,085. Additionally, wages increased 11.19 percent from 2007 to 2013. During that period, the average earning per job reached $39,048, up from $35,118.

The city is also among the growth rate leaders in the five-year period (2008-2012) of per capita personal income at 6.98 percent ($39,692 to $42,464) with Lawrence, Columbia and Lincoln topping 7 percent.

However, the population decreased by 314 people in 2013, per capita personal income decreased by $665 in 2012 and average earning per job increased only $459 in 2011.

Higgins said Fort Riley’s growth has slowed, but the arrival of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) should begin increase the growth rate again.

“I think we’re well positioned for that,” he said.

Something that could affect people’s perception of Manhattan is the change to its MSA.

Higgins said Junction City is no longer part of the Manhattan MSA. He said Junction City is now considered a micropolitan statistical area due to population growth.

Higgins said the change dropped the Manhattan MSA population from 120,000-130,000 people to 98,085 people.

Even with the removal of that segment, the new Manhattan MSA still experienced the previously-mentioned growth rate, but the raw numbers have changed.

City manager Ron Fehr said people can still use combined statistical area (CSA) data to put Manhattan and Junction City back together, but Higgins said more data is produced for MSAs.

Lyle Butler, Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce president, said some organizations looking at raw numbers might look past Manhattan, but others will take a deeper look.

“Those that will do a little more research or make phone calls to us and ask why is Manhattan dropping, then we get a chance to explain,” he said.

Butler said the city is still riding on the strength of the reputation gained in the previous years.

“Right now, the good news still outshines the flattening,” he said.

The period of growth also applies the city’s debt.

Higgins said the city’s use of its debt limit is higher when compared to other cities: Topeka, Lenexa, Junction City, Salina, Lawrence, Olathe, Overland Park and Wichita.

“We’re standing in a big part of our debt right now,” Higgins said, referring to the Hilton. “This is a great facility.”

Manhattan used 63.64 percent of its debt limit in 2012, only topped by Junction City at 93 percent.

The other cities range between Topeka at 13.26 percent and Salina at 37 percent.

The city’s debt per capita is $4,910.94, up about 15.33 percent from 2003. Only Junction’s debt per capita of $6,275.83 tops that. Junction City’s debt has increased about 294 percent from 2003.

The other cities’ debt per capita ranged between $1,550.52 in Lawrence and $3,055.31 in Topeka, and the growth ranged between a decrease of 0.405 percent in Lawrence and an increase of 7.775 percent in Overland Park.

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