By DOUG WILLIAMS
Executive Director, Grow Hays
The Greek philosopher Aristotle is credited with being the first to coin the concept that the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” Some call it synergy. In sports, it is referred to as teamwork, but regardless of how it is described, it is the secret sauce that can make great things happen.
At Grow Hays, we are blessed to be a participant in several of these projects.
The Heart of America Development housing project in the Tallgrass 2nd Addition, located east of the NCK campus on East 22nd street, is a great example. Grow Hays, a local not-for-profit organization, partnered with Heart of America Development, a not-for-profit developer, to create a development for workforce housing. Still, it took many others to make this happen. The property owner, the Lusk family from Wichita, Kansas, agreed to sell the land below market value to facilitate a more viable project. Using the State of Kansas Rural Housing Incentive District (RHID), the City of Hays, Ellis County, and USD 489 agreed to delay their shares of property tax revenues generated from the homes constructed. Add to this a group of local builders committing to build multiple homes and maintain a price point for the homes below market value. And all of this occurred in the middle of the pandemic.
The results have been outstanding. The street improvements for the 36 lots in Phase 1 were completed in the fall of 2021. In the 14 months since then, all 36 homes have sold. 19 homes have been completed and are now occupied, 17 are under construction, with 5 nearing completion, and the remaining 12 will be finished this summer. The buyers have included first-time homeowners, people relocating to Hays, and existing homeowners who have sold their existing homes, thus providing housing inventory to a very tight market. In addition, due to the use of an RHID, all homeowners will enjoy their new homes without the burden of special assessments for street and infrastructure improvements. Street and infrastructure improvements on the 18 lots in Phase 2 are nearing completion, and new home construction will commence this spring.
Our entire community has benefited from this project. It has created over $10,000,000 in direct economic impact. It has provided desperately needed housing to the local market. It has created jobs and revenue for general contractors, plumbers, electricians, framers, drywallers, appliance stores, material providers, flooring providers, lenders, and many others.
Another great example is the Grow Hays MicroFactory project. In March of 2022, Grow Hays was awarded a 2.63 million dollar BASE Grant from the State of Kansas to construct a 30,000-square-foot MicroFactory facility. A MicroFactory is a business incubator for manufacturing startups and small manufacturers looking to grow their businesses. In addition to the BASE Grant, Grow Hays received a $500,000 grant from the Patterson Family Foundation, a donation of land valued at $275,000 from the Heart of America Development Corporation, Industrial Revenue Bonds from the City of Hays, and a loan with very favorable terms from the Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center.
In addition to the immediate $4 million dollar direct economic impact this project will create, it will also generate economic benefits for our community for decades to come. The tenants in the MicroFactory will provide employment opportunities for community members, purchase goods and services locally, and ultimately when they outgrow their space, will relocate to their own facility freeing up their space for the next tenant. This process will be repeated again and again.
These two examples are not only impactful projects occurring in our community, but they do represent what can happen when a group of organizations who are dedicated to making our community a better place come together to make “the whole greater than the sum of the parts” 1+1=3.