City officials pleased, not surprised, with study results
By RANDY GONZALES
Finding out the city of Hays was ranked second among best cities in Kansas for young families came as no surprise to Mayor Kent Steward.
"I raised a family in Hays, so I'm not at all surprised that Hays would be recognized that way," Steward said.
NerdWallet, a consumer advocacy website, released its study last week. Using available date comparing 61 cities over the population of 5,000 in the state, Hays came in second, behind Andover. The criteria used were: public school ratings; median home value; cost of home ownership; median income; and economic growth.
"We're doing one for each of the 50 states, and this is the first time we're doing the series," said NerdWallet analyst Mike Anderson.
NerdWallet also noted Hays' school district received an eight out of a possible 10 rating from the nonprofit group GreatSchools.
Hays also has the third-lowest home prices of cities in the top 10. Hays also has a low unemployment rate of 3.4 percent.
Hays has a lot to offer, Steward said.
"Even though people that live in large cities might think opportunities are limited in a town the size of Hays, because of our remoteness we have a lot more amenities than a typical town of 21,000 people," Steward said. "I've lived in several towns, and I've discovered each has their own personality.
Hays exemplifies small-town America, Steward said.
"One word that I use when I talk to people about Hays is 'wholesome,' " Steward said. "You watch television or visit other places, you see the slums and the gangs, and even just traffic and chaos. Then you come to Hays, and it's a wholesome place where people know each other, care about each other. You can raise your kids and feel like you're getting a good education, and that they're safe."
Tammy Wellbrock, executive director of Hays Area Chamber of Commerce and mother of a fourth-grader, echoed Steward's sentiments.
"I would feel safe, and have my child safe, anywhere," in Hays, she said. "I think it's affordable for us to live here, from all aspects, and then we can afford to give our child a great experience.
"We can worry about whether or not our traveling basketball team wins a championship versus whether or not our kid is safe if he rides his bike down the street."
Steward, also director of University Relations at Fort Hays State University, is having his office promote the study when appropriate, and he doesn't think FHSU will be alone in taking advantage of the study's findings.
"I'm sure the city and the chamber will try to make use of it," he said. "When you have an independent group recognize something good about you, that adds some credibility beyond you trying to say it yourself."
Top 10 cities in Kansas for young families
3. Spring Hill
6. De Soto
8. Overland Park