Council Grove sits precariously on the cusp of the continued growth of the Manhattan Metropolitan area, while facing the economic decline so rampant across rural America. As the tectonic national and global economic shifts move the workforce from agricultural to information, Council Grove must adapt strategically to these changes if it is to maintain, grow and attract future populations.
Council Grove's economy cannot be seen as an island as there are many levels of influence that weigh upon its growth and development. Over the past 100 years Council Grove, the Flint Hills Region and the state of Kansas has seen many changes, and in comparison to its regional competition, Kansas has had the short straw on maintaining, growing and attracting new customers.
Over the past fifteen years the state of Kansas has increased in population by 236,861, while the Kansas City Metropolitan Area has increased by 249,489. In other words, virtually all of the state's growth can be explained by the continued pull of urbanization and the Base Realignment and Closure Act, which brought an additional 10,000 soldiers and their families to the region and the state.
At the same time as America was growing more urban, over the past thirty years America's businesses are becoming more lean, more nimble, as the numbers of establishments has increased by 59%, while jobs have stagnated at 1% growth, resulting in smaller busineses to face the turbulent economy.
Although the government sector accounts for nearly a quarter of all industry in Council Grove, the city has a rather broad distribution of employment, with over ten percent in Crop and Animal Production, Health Care and Social Services and Retail Trade. Finance and Insurance and Manufacturing continue to be strong sectors.
Wages, including saleries and proprietor earnings fall well below national and state averages for most sectors. Only the sectors of Agricultural and Logistics show above national average wages, with many areas falling over half the expected wages for the industry sector.
Council Grove's Per Capita Income continues to be one of the highest in the region. This is reflective a few different forces: the growing proportion of income from retirement and investments, the aging demographics and the declining population. So, although Per Capita Income is strong, larger forces are impacting the economy.
The top employers in Morris County are largely government related and manufacturing in industry. The presence of education, health care and agriculture on this list would be expected for most communities of Council Grove's size, yet the continued presence of advanced manufacturing adds a rich diversity to the Morris County landscape. The lack of a warehouse superstore also accounts for a local market still in the top ten.
The vast fluctuations of the U.S. economy over the past few years can only truly be seen in the rise and fall of Geary County. While Riley County and Pottawatomie County continue to have low unemployment rates, well below the national average, Morris County's rate has doubled since the recession.
The retail leakage of Morris County is led by the automotive and warehouse/supercenter sectors. With an estimated leakage of over $13 Million lost annually to auto related industries and over $11 Million lost annually to supermarkets or supercenters regionally. Where other notable losses are to Hotels and area Restaurants.
Council Grove's major industry clusters are in Production Technology & Heavy Machinery, Local Utilities, and Transportation & Logistics. With many local manufacturers and a firm foothold in telecommunications, Council Grove has a surprising range of diversity for a community of its size. As the economy shifts to the servicing of tourism and retirees, the challenge will be to what degree this diversity remains and possibly, expands.
The anticipated growth of the Council Grove economy is projected to be in the Information and manufacturing sectors. Although Government, by far the largest, will continue to grow, it will serve more as ballast to the larger gains of other sectors. Agricultural production jobs will continue to decline, while Utilities and Professional Services are expected to show sharp decreases.
There have been and continue to be larger forces at play in the national and global economy. Agriculture, at one time represented nearly 70% of the U.S. labor force, now it falls below 5%. While manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing is showing somewhat of a resurgence across the U.S. in the bigger picture Industry continues to take a back seat to the quickly growing Service sector.
The mobility of the workforce is not just accounted for in the larger industry shifts, as manufacturers move off-shore and the Fortune 500 Companies relocate offices and service centers at a whim, the daily commute of the region's workforce shows the majority of the Morris County workforce travels outside the county to work.