Voters will decide Nov. 2 whether to increase a countywide sales tax by 1⁄4 of a cent to go toward a new Allen County Hospital.
Members of the Allen County Healthcare Committee address questions about the issue.
Q: If the population in the county is declining, is a new hospital a good investment?
A: Like many states in the middle of the United States not located in the Sun Belt, Kansas’ growth in population has been limited to primarily the metropolitan counties and a few others that have growing universities or other unique circumstances. Most rural counties in Kansas have had steady to declining population trends for many decades because farming has required fewer and fewer people and rural workers have migrated to large cities for jobs. Allen County is a rural county and is surrounded by counties with similar trends.
Allen County has experienced times of growth, too, primarily due to the presence for more than 100 years of manufacturing businesses in the county. In the decade of the 1970s there was considerable industrial activity in southeast Kansas. Allen County during that time added more than 1,000 jobs with the arrival of Berg Manufacturing (now Haldex), Intercollegiate Press (now Herff-Jones), Gates Rubber Company and Klein Tool (closed for several years), to name a few larger ones.
In the 1990s, Allen County added B&W Custom Truck Beds, Russell Stover Candies and Precision Pump (now Cameron International) to name the largest ones during that decade. Manufacturing jobs provide local employment for people leaving agricultural jobs.
All manufacturers are going to want a modern hospital close by, for emergency room services should there by a work-related accident and for access by members of their work force to up-to-date healthcare and wellness services. To keep our manufacturing jobs in the county and to attract new ones, a modern hospital is very important. As long as Allen County continues to be a good place for manufacturing jobs and has a modern hospital, the decline in population should be minimized if not reversed, occasionally.
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