We’d like to wish you, dear reader, a happy New Year.
And we’d like to take a minute to think about the year — and the decade — that’s ending. Because, truth be told, we’re living in a wonderful time and place, and it’s worth remembering that.
It’s easy to forget. Human brains are wired to make more out of bad news than they do about good, and so we focus on the latest disasters. For instance, in 2019, we lost Country Stampede, which pulled up stakes and moved to Topeka. That was one of the biggest news stories of the year that’s ending.
The Stampede generated roughly $8 million in economic activity here annually, according to estimates. And it brought high-profile talent and national attention to our community. So it was easy to worry that the economy here would go into the ditch, relatively speaking. Instead, what happened? Well, according to the latest sales tax figures, retail sales this year are ahead of last year. The local economy keeps chugging along.
Home values keep increasing. The local schools keep producing National Merit Scholars, this year more than ever. A man who grew up here won the Nobel Prize in economics. A woman from Manhattan is now a movie star. Another native is now a high-profile athletics director.
Yes, enrollment at K-State is down, and that’s a significant concern. But research dollars have surged. The gusher of money from television contracts for athletics has meant major facilities upgrades here.
On the other end of the spectrum? In the past decade, this community has essentially built a public bus system, and — as pointed out in a recent feature story — a substantially improved bicycling network. It’s a lot easier to get around without a car. We survived a major recession — in fact, we prospered throughout a decade that was rough in many parts of the country.
Over the past decade, we have also improved relationships with other area communities, including Junction City and Wamego, and have built on very strong foundations with the university and Fort Riley. We have a U.S. senator who moved here, and we have mostly built a major federal lab here, and have begun hiring staff. We upgraded our high school, and we’re about to again.
If you just look at what’s actually happened, rather than listening to hysterics, it helps you appreciate what’s real.
So let’s look forward to a great 2020, and let’s raise a glass to 2019, and the decade that’s ending. We’re fortunate to be right here, right now.