It was pretty easy, 10 years ago, to see what the biggest local story of the decade was going to be.
It was NBAF. The federal government had decided to build the big new lab here, and we knew that the process of designing it, building it, staffing it and setting up the systems that operate it would take the entire decade.
Indeed, that’s what happened. As The Mercury reported Sunday, the National Bio- And Agro-Defense Facility was the story of the decade. The only other real contender for that title was Bill Snyder’s second resurrection of the K-State football program, one that again brought the Wildcats a conference title and a stint at the top of the national polls.
Those two major developments were fundamentally positive, reflecting a decade of progress and success in our region. We reflected on that in a recent editorial — it’s worth remembering our good fortune.
It also naturally makes a person wonder: What’s the next decade going to bring?
Obviously one story that got bigger as the last decade wore on was the enrollment decline at K-State. A major question for this decade is: Will they get that turned around? Or is this going to be a much more serious crisis?
Other issues likely to remain as major stories: Who’s the next president at the university, and how will that shift change the institution? President Richard Myers will be 78 in a couple of months.
He’s doing a great job leading the university, but he will likely bow out before another decade passes. The university has also been on a strategic path set by Kirk Schulz to try to reach certain benchmarks by 2025. Will that direction remain, or will it shift?
In sports, the early success of Chris Klieman indicates a real consolidation of K-State’s football program beyond the shadow of one person. The coming decade will be the real test of how that plays out.
Beyond K-State, but certainly impacting our local community in a major way, the way that conference television contracts develop — and the effect of streaming services on the big gusher of money that those contracts provide — is a major story to watch.
Just the incremental difference from one contract to the next has meant more money for Manhattan than many major economic development projects combined.
At an even larger level, the story that impacts us all is the dissolving of the ties that bind us together as a local community.
A person doesn’t have to live here to work here, and doesn’t have to work here to live here. For that matter, a person doesn’t really have to come here to get a K-State education, either.
Because of simulators, a soldier doesn’t have to have a tank range to practice shooting from a tank. A business doesn’t have to be here to do business here. Because of the digital world that has exploded in the past 20 years, people’s interests and connections aren’t bound by geography anymore.
What will that mean for a town like Manhattan, 10 years from now?
We don’t really know, but we’re certain that the trend will continue.
It probably means that quality-of-life aspects of the community will be even more important in attracting and keeping people here. It probably means that more locally owned and operated businesses will be taken down by national chains.
Manhattan is certainly far better off under those circumstances than many Midwestern towns. We still have Aggieville, and K-State, and we still have lakes and rivers and beautiful sunsets. No beach, no mountains, but, hey, the Konza sure is nice in the fall.
And we have each other — friends, neighbors, fellow church-goers, and parents of kids at the same schools.
So what we have are a bunch of question marks. There’s not a big story that quite obviously will dominate.
That’s the way the news is. It’s exciting, and it’s endlessly interesting, and we plan to be here reporting it for you all the way through.