The Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce was featured in an article by John Green on the front page of the February 13 edition of the Hutchinson News. The article covered the Chamber's plan for revitalizing a local economy which has been struggling for decades.

Chamber President Debra Teufel said, “The six areas the Chamber will focus on are business expansion and recruitment, workforce development, the local regulatory environment, retail development, housing, and entrepreneurship.

The studies mentioned in the article -- “Downtown Assessment”, “Retail Market Assessment” and “Target Industry Analysis” -- have been released and can be found online at

Included below are the summary sections of two of the recent publication. I hope these summaries will generate interest in reading the documents.

From: Downtown Assessment

The following are key initiatives that can improve downtown conditions and leverage existing revitalization momentum.

Merchandising Strategy: Develop a nuanced merchandising plan that includes wider offerings, entertainment, destination dining, and greater housing options.
Adopt Special District: Explore adopting a festival zone, creating a Tax Increment Finance District and Business Improvement District to support financing of projects and on-going maintenance.
Prioritize Investments: Conduct a survey of targeted investment areas and prioritize public financing in areas which catalyze net-new development, address the greatest needs, and leverage private investment.
Create Stronger Management: Explore reactivating Main Street program or conduct a similar structure to support marketing, management, maintenance, and merchandising strategies.”

From: Target Industry Analysis: Target Industry Summaries

MANUFACTURING: Hutchinson’s industry has a solid foundation in manufacturing clusters which includes machinery, equipment and wood and metal products for machinery. Machinery is growing and is the most highly concentrated sector in Hutchinson. This sector includes food, paper, printing, furniture, agricultural and medical equipment that are all increasing. The cluster shows strong regional and moderate national growth in certain subsectors.
TECHNOLOGY: Hutchinson’s emerging technology base is growing and can take advantage of local educational specialties and skilled labor. This technology cluster includes custom computer programming, rural IT providers, and computer systems design services which are growing rapidly. Companies in this cluster also provide data services – writing, testing and supporting custom software, planning and designing integrated hardware, software and communication infrastructure and on-site management of computer systems and data processing facilities.
HEALTHCARE: The healthcare cluster is a large component that includes facilities and organizations providing health and wellness through healthcare providers, to hospitals, and specialty medical facilities. Hutchinson’s health care potential is strong with Hutchinson Community College and regional access to a rural population that is dependent on Hutchinson’s services.
RETAIL/DESTINATION TOURISM: Retail and services, which includes storefront businesses, represents over 61 percent of Hutchinson’s labor base. Hutchinson has a strong concentration of existing retail and can support regional and destination users. Nationally, retail trade grew 6 percent regionally as an industry between 2013 and 2017. Quality retail can help attract, and/or retain employment for larger corporate users. Increased employment will serve as an amenity to local businesses, visitors, and residential population.”

The February article also mentions comments by “longtime county resident Richard Robl.” He says, “My interest at this point is about a paradigm shift. First, it has to be decided that we need to make changes.” I agree with Richard about a paradigm shift and making changes. I am not sure we would agree on the nature of the changes required. I am interested in the role of religion in economic development. Serious consideration of this role would require a paradigm shift in those involved in development and local churches. I hope to explore this topic further in future columns.


Phil Wood, a Baha'i, originally from New England, resided for 12 years in Barbados, 4 years in China, has lived 30 years in Hutchinson.