GARDEN CITY, Kansas – In recent years Garden City’s unemployment rate has been held steadfast at 4.5 percent.
In fact, it’s only surpassed 5 percent once in the last 12 years, according to a Garden City retail market study.
City officials say that right now, whoever can and is willing to work, is.
Now, Garden City is in the uncomfortable position of filling employee positions during this heavy growth period.
In the coming months, people in Garden City will have a few more options for eating out and shopping, but the city faces a challenge: who’s going to fill all the new jobs at these businesses?
“The biggest struggle for employers right now is just finding bodies,” said Steve Dyer, president of the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce.
Walmart Marketplace, Rib crib, Buffalo Wild Wings and Cricket wireless. Those are just a few of the new businesses opening their doors in Garden City, which is now being called a hub for shopping in the West.
“It’s easier to get here than it is to go to Wichita or Colorado Springs. [There’s] less traffic, parking’s easier, so that’s really what’s going on with it but it creates a challenge too because then, where do you find the employees to work there?” Dyer said.
According to city officials, Garden’s population is around 30,000 but it attracts a neighboring population of about 190,000 people and according to a Garden City market study, only about half of retail sales made in the city come from local households.
“We definitely have a lot of locals but on the weekends, you know, people from Johnson, Dodge, all the surrounding towns,” said Sarah Keshmiry, a hair stylist at Great Clips, which opened three months ago at Schulman Crossing. “This is kind of a hub for them because they come shopping and everything.”
Many of the major corporations that choose to develop in Garden City like Hobby Lobby and Dick’s Sporting Goods, recognize that while the city’s population is still growing, the traffic from outside communities is huge.
“The ones that see our true trade area want to commit to Garden City and come here and have been successful,” said Matt Allen, the City Manager for Garden City.
While business is a good thing, some people worry there just aren’t enough people to take the jobs.
“All the businesses that I’ve seen really are looking for employees constantly,” Keshmiry said.
City leaders say they’re getting creative to solve the problem by reaching out to the high school for recent grads and Fort Riley for veterans looking for work.
“We’re definitely excited for the growth,” said Allen. “We’d rather have the problems that we’re experiencing now than the alternative.”