Halstead sweetens the pot to lure new residents

HALSTEAD, Kansas – It’s known as the biggest little city in Kansas, but even little cities need growth.

That’s why this city of around 2,000 residents in Harvey County is looking to give new residents an incentive to move.

“If you lose ground or stay steady, you’re getting behind,” Halstead city administrator J.R. Hatfield said. “We’re just really excited about all the programs and the things that are available in a community like Halstead.”

Hatfield and a committee of citizens came up with a program called Chamber Bucks to lure new residents to Halstead. The plan was hatched after RedGuard, a Wichita business that builds blast-resistant structures, bought an abandoned manufacturing plant, promising to bring 60 jobs to Halstead. Once that happened, Hatfield and others devised a way to try to keep those workers in Halstead and potentially bring others to the city.

The Chamber Bucks work like gift certificates that can be used for city or school costs and most local businesses.

“You can buy gasoline, you can buy groceries, buy carpet, you can buy hardware, you can buy appliances,” Hatfield said. “It’s all available here and can all be bought with your Chamber Bucks, to get you to live in Halstead and find out what a great community we have.”

People can earn Chamber Bucks by either moving to Halstead, enrolling a child in Halstead USD 440, or getting a job in the city. Doing one of those gets you $50, two of those gets you $400, and doing all three gets you $1,500 in Chamber Bucks. Also, if you build a new home and live there, you get an extra $1,000, meaning new residents could receive up to $2,500 in Chamber Bucks.

“We’ve really started to see that incentives like this can help the housing market,” said Cory Harrington, the president of the Halstead school board and the vice-president of Halstead Bank. “It’s going to help if you’re looking to buy a house or sell a house.”

The program launched on April 1, and one family has already pulled a permit to build a new home as a result of the program, with many others interested in the incentive, Hatfield said.

“Ultimately our tagline is to discover Halstead,” Harrington said. “That’s what we’re wanting people to do is to discover our school district, discover our community, and discover our businesses in our town.”

The incentive is valid through the end of the year, at which point, the city, the school district and chamber of commerce could consider renewing the incentives.

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