The economic development organization for Ellis County, Grow Hays, is asking the city of Hays for $100,000 in funding for 2020.
"The city of Hays is important to us," said Grow Hays Executive Director Doug Williams, speaking to the Hays City Commission at its regular work session Thursday evening at City Hall, 1507 Main.
"Without you, we are not sustainable, and I don't make that as a threat, I just state it as a fact," Williams said. "We were fortunate enough the county agreed to give us $27,500 this last week. Given their budgetary challenges, I consider that a very generous funding amount from them. We had asked for $50,000 because that's what we need."
The $100,000 request of the city is not a wish; it's a need, he said. Grow Hays traditionally has gotten up to 80 percent of its funding from the city and Ellis County.
That's the first money request from Grow Hays since the entity was reorganized from the old Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development.
The city in 2017 gave the coalition a little more than $87,550, the same amount it had given it each year since 2010.
Since January 2018, Williams said the organization has changed its board of directors, downsizing from 25 to 13, changed its name, hired him as executive director and changed location to 219 W. 10th.
"What hasn't changed however is our mission," he said, "business creation, business retention and expansion and business recruitment, and I am proud to report to you that I believe we are hitting on all cylinders on those items at this point in time."
To do its work, Grow Hays needs partners, Williams said.
"We have no bigger partner than the city of Hays for a lot of different reasons," he said. "Certainly one of them I'm here tonight to talk to you about is funding. That's critical to us in terms of sustainability."
Projects wouldn't happen without the city as an integral partner, he said.
Williams pointed out that the city's peer communities get more money from their cities than Grow Hays does, he said, mentioning Dodge City, Garden City, Salina and Phillipsburg. They also invest in economic development in other ways, he said.
"They pass sales taxes that we wonder if we could pass here," Williams said.
Some of the services Grow Hays is supplying in 2020 include: an entrepreneurship series, providing GAP financing to start up companies; consulting, BriefSpace coworking space, workforce development such as welding and CDL training classes at NCK-Tech and Fort Hays, succession planning, destination boot camp, Hays Has Jobs web site.
For business recruitment, Grow Hays will help with the affordable housing rehabilitation program, the Exit 157 Travel Plaza, the Northwest Business Corridor, Vine Street Roundabouts and retail strategies.
Some city commissioners present for the work session, Sandy Jacobs, Shawn Musil and Mayor Henry Schwaller IV, complimented Williams.
"I will congratulate you on what Grow Hays has done so far the past 18 months," Jacobs said. "A lot of people may be sitting around waiting for something grand to happen."
Instead, she said, Williams has started with basic processes for economic development, she said, such as the entrepreneurship classes and workshops that Grow Hays regularly offers.
"There's so much out there that are the very basics of economic development," Jacobs said.
Musil agreed, saying he's been to Grow Hays events and was impressed.
"Since I've been on the commission, I've seen every negative comment about your group, and to me, you filled in and you do a great job," Musil said. In his time on the commission, he said, he's learned that bringing in new businesses is a slow process. Funding has to be a key component in the difference between Hays and Dodge City and Garden City, he said.
"To me, it would be shameful for us to not support you guys," Musil said.
Schwaller thanked Williams.
"We appreciate your work, your strategic vision, the motivation of you, your board and your staff," Schwaller said. "We're lightyears ahead of where we've been."
The city commission meets next at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for its regular meeting in City Hall.