The Success Story of Emporia, Kansas
It’s the age-old question for community developers: Is it possible to combine small-town charm with big business? For the answer, look no further than Emporia.
On one hand, this city of 27,000 is defined by gorgeous Victorian homes, tree-lined avenues, brick streets and welcoming front porches. At the same time, the city is a regional leader in manufacturing, education, transportation, trade, medicine and food production and an outstanding overall location for business.
“It really is the perfect blend of industry and Midwestern quality of life,” said Kent Heermann, President of the Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas. “Whether you’re looking to raise a family, start a career or grow a business, Emporia has it all.”
Like many Kansas cities, Emporia has a legacy in manufacturing and agricultural production – industries that continue to thrive there today. But in recent years, Emporia has also emerged as a leader in pet food production. In fact, the city is a key part of the Global Animal Health Corridor, a 200-mile stretch of the Kansas City metro area that comprises a whopping 32 percent of total sales in the $19 billion global animal health market.
The Main Street in Emporia is Commercial Street. Main Street shows the pride of the community. This thoroughfare is home to the Emporia Granada Theatre, a movie palace constructed in 1929 that now hosts concerts, movie screenings and special events. Throughout the year, Commercial hosts a variety of events, like the Taste of Emporia and Glass Blown Open in April, Dirty Kanza Bicycle Race in June and The Great American Market in September. The city of Emporia was named the “Best Main Street in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards.” The national contest included 20 cities which were nominated by a panel of subject matter experts in the areas of travel, tourism, and downtown economic development from the National Main Street Center and the American Planning Association. Emporia Main Street Executive Director, Casey Woods says this an honor for all Emporians to share.
“A downtown belongs to all segments of a community, and the unique nature of the local businesses, events, historic buildings and culture that emanates from a downtown defines the vibrancy of a city. Great rural communities start with a great downtown, and we are blessed that local citizens have made Emporia Main Street a focal point in community and economic development efforts.” Wood went on to say that Emporia is a community of doers. “You don’t grow international events, start businesses, rehabilitate historic buildings and maintain a sense of volunteerism just by talking. Emporia prides itself on its ability to go beyond visions and planning to actually execute tangible results through innovation and an old fashioned, Midwestern work ethic. Our citizens and volunteers expect results from their commitment of time, talent and treasure- and the Emporia Main Street program has a history of solid results in the creation of an improving, sustainable, unique community that inspires local pride.”
Emporia is also home of the Dirty Kanza Bicycle Race. A 200 mile gravel bike ride throughout the Flint Hills of Kansas. The popularity of DK200 has grown from 34 participants in 2006, to over 2,200 riders in 2017. DK200 is a grass-roots event, organized and managed by many who are passionate about cycling, and done so for the primary purpose of providing life-enriching cycling experiences for participants. The Dirty Kanza is the first weekend after Memorial Day.
The Glass Blown Open is a premiere disc golf event held in Emporia, Kansas. Players from all over the world come to experience the amazing disc golf courses in Emporia.
Article from Forbes September 6, 2017:
Quit Your Job: 7 Places In The U.S. So Cheap You Can Afford To Be An Entrepreneur
Emporia, Kansas Voted #2 in the USA
This charming, walkable and bikeable town with 14 buildings on the National Register of Historic places is home to Emporia State University. “And with a population of only 25,000 people, you won’t feel like a number,” says Cabrera, who points out that it's a great place to be part of a community that has an active main street, restaurants and a bustling performing arts theatre. “You’ll fall in love with the architecture of this town — and who knows, maybe even be inspired to start up your own downtown business.” The median rent is $600 a month and many homes are listed under $100,000. You can get internet speeds up to one gig through ValuNet.
Location, Location, Location
Perhaps the city’s strongest business asset is its location. Situated midway between Topeka and Wichita on I-335 and between Kansas City and Wichita on I-35, Emporia is a key crossroads and trade area for East Central Kansas, which comprises 82,000 people. Highway bus service is available to and from Emporia, and 13 motor freight carriers serve the Emporia area. In fact, the amount of heavy commercial traffic coming through Emporia is second only to the Kansas City metropolitan area.
And it’s not just highway traffic. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad line passes through Emporia, with dual main track lines supporting up to 80 intermodal trains daily. The city is supported by the Emporia Municipal Airport, which boasts a 5,000-foot hard-surface runway that can accommodate most corporate aircraft. Less than 100 miles down the road is Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, which offers 10 carriers and 30 daily flights. And just 130 miles away is Kansas City International Airport, which offers 13 major carriers providing 250 daily flights and nine air cargo carriers with 19 daily flights.
“It’s tough to beat Emporia’s location, especially when you’re talking about shipping and accessibility to other major metro areas,” Heermann said. “To be so close to Topeka, Kansas City and Wichita is clearly a huge logistical advantage.”
Education and Training
Emporia-area businesses also benefit from the city’s outstanding education institutions. Emporia State University is one of the finest medium-sized universities in the Midwest. More than 6,000 students are enrolled in the university, which offers outstanding programs in education, business, arts and sciences, library science and information management.
Additionally, the Flint Hills Technical College offers training in a variety of fields – such as automotive technology, business administrative technology, computer program design and development network technology, construction technology, dental assisting, graphic arts and machine tool technology – and is constantly developing training partnerships with local businesses.