Garden City business owners depend on immigrants

Business leaders say Garden City's growth depends on immigrants

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — While the unemployment rate across the state has gone up, in Finney County, officials say they’ve seen a jump in the number of jobs being created.

“We’ve created something over 3,000 new jobs in the last four years,” said Lona DuVall with the Finney County Economic Development Corporation, “so a lot of really good sustainable economic growth.”

With unemployment at 3.5 percent and an increasing need to fill jobs, business owners say immigrants are vital to that continued growth.

“Go around town. Look at all the construction workers,” said Erika Jimenez, who owns two businesses in Garden. “Look at all the labor workers. Look who they are. Look who works at the dairies. Go to Tyson.”

Jimenez says about half of her employees are immigrants, and many of them are undocumented.

An immigrant herself, she believes they tend to have strong work ethics.

“I feel special that I can give them the opportunity to work,” she said. “They’re human beings. They get the job done. That’s all it takes.”

Anjelica Castillo Chappel, who owns several businesses in Garden, agrees.

“That’s all of the dirty work that not a lot of American society would want to do,” she said. “So we’re the roofers, we’re the farmers, we’re the ones that are doing all the hard labor in so many ways.”

Castillo Chappel’s businesses are staffed entirely by immigrants. She said it would be difficult to fill every job opening without a large immigrant population, and she’s proud to be their employer.

“I’m not only now a business owner and giving the opportunity to others, but it comes in full circle. I was that immigrant that needed translation services. I was that immigrant that needed help.”

Chamber president Steve Dyer tells KSN that one of the biggest problems local businesses face is actually trying to find enough people to fill those open jobs.