September 21, 2019 Supporting Manhattan-area entrepreneurs, businesses, events

What Change Would Move Manhattan Forward Culturally and Economically?

For many, Manhattan is either a home or merely a place to go to school. As a first-year student, the extent of Manhattan for me was campus and my walk to class. The only exception was Aggieville, which  I think of as both a part of the Manhattan community and as a cornerstone for campus life. Aggieville is a place that brings together all facets of the Manhattan community. Transforming Moro Street, which runs through Aggieville, into a pedestrian mall would move Manhattan forward by continuing and enhancing relationships between K-State, community members, and Fort Riley residents. This change would increase opportunities to make the city feel even more like home through events and activities for all residents, both temporary and permanent.

Jordan Kiehl

Student Body President, Student Governing Association

Manhattan’s greatest asset is its people and the future of our community will be determined by the young people who choose to reside in it. Companies’ greatest asset is their employees, and communities rich with talent attract these companies. Not only does young talent want a thriving job market and affordable housing, they want amenities like parks and hiking trails, locally owned restaurants and shops, walkability, ethnic diversity, and quality schools. Don’t believe me? Look at some of the top metros winning the war for skilled talent: Bend, Oregon; Bozeman, Montana; Austin, Texas; Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado; San Francisco, California. Each of these towns has a dynamic work, live and play environment. To move Manhattan forward, we must be aggressive in creating a place that the next generation of talent will choose as their home. Manhattan has a lot going for it, but our destiny isn’t written. We need vision, strategies, and resources to build a community that’s attractive to the best and brightest. How to do it? Start by asking your intern.

Rebecca Robinson

Director of Economic Development, Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization Knowledge-Based Economic Development

Being born and raised in Kansas, I believe there is no place like the Midwest to live and raise a family. That said, in Manhattan, we have not been successful at attracting new residents because recruitment to our region has proven difficult. With a 2.5 percent unemployment rate, it is already challenging to fill the critical roles across our community.

New graduates, young professionals, and people across the nation choose where they want to live based on the quality of place, and once that choice is made, they look for a job opportunity within that location. Important factors in choosing a place to build your life include finding a place with diversity of life. Communities with jobs, great schools, recreational opportunities, and an outlet for the arts rise to the top of the list.

I am pleased to see the regional collaboration that is already occurring with Region Reimagined. The Manhattan area has many great people who are coming together to ensure that our region is the place where people want to build careers, raise families, and live life.

Lonnie Baker

CEO, Meadowlark

The circumstances that enable rural college-towns to be competitive have changed dramatically in a short period of time. Manhattan has an opportunity to invest in physical and cultural infrastructure that will bring energy to industry, Kansas State University, and the business districts. To realize this potential, what it means to be from and live in this place–Manhattan, Kansas–needs to be reimagined in order to attract and retain top talent to the region. The economic, cultural, social, and political conditions need to be forward-looking to anticipate the conditions that can support diverse ideas, life choices, and people. Recognizing and proactively responding to this global reality will ensure the vibrancy of the region 10, 25, 50, and 100 years from now.

Brandon W. Kliewer

Assistant Professor, Staley School of Leadership Studies Kansas State University

Manhattan has been extremely fortunate to maintain a level of steady growth and change over the last 20 years when other communities have been suffering. We are, however, on the road to major change as a community with NBAF coming to reality. It is imperative we look at infrastructure and quality of life items which will attract new talent while encouraging young graduates to establish roots here. Transportation, entertainment, recreation, childcare, housing, elementary and secondary education, and healthcare must be strong.

Our community also needs to elevate our ability to listen to and encourage our youth to share their opinions. We should seek out underrepresented groups within the community to encourage volunteer and leadership roles. Business success will be best accomplished when we think about inclusivity. Manhattan is uniquely blessed with a highly educated diverse population because of higher education entities like K-State, and nearby Fort Riley.

Let’s embrace the vibrant elements of our quaint college town. The average visitor comes back to our community 11 times a year. When we leverage our strengths, invite change, and represent all those we serve, we will propel what we want to see for Manhattan’s future.

Jennifer “J.J.” Kuntz

General Manager, Bluemont Hotel

I would really like to see a more diligent and purposeful focus on providing suitable housing for all Manhattan citizens and have been working towards that end. Additionally, in order to solve the workforce issues we have in Manhattan, there are two things which we need to focus on:

The first is to create a city with the quality of life so that people want to live here. We are making large investments in this area through several initiatives – think things like the recreation and trails sales tax and the recent approval of the school district bond proposal.

The second has to be a focus on ensuring that quality affordable housing is available. This is something the city has yet to put much energy behind. It would be hard to disagree that the amount of housing available for low-income citizens is lacking, but another problem is housing for young families that we are trying to retain and attract to come here. I work with several people who bought homes in the surrounding areas because they could not find something of decent quality in their price range or the special taxes priced them out of the property. These are problems that the city should solve.

Jerred McKee

Commissioner, City of Manhattan

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