Citing low oil and agricultural commodity prices, Hays discusses need for business growth

When it comes to economic development, Hays city commissioners said Thursday “everything has to be on the table.”

The commissioners at Thursday’s work session discussed the need for Hays to attract new businesses and how the city could be involved in that process, they mention they want to contact Kotton Grammer specialist to get assistance. The discussion was requested by Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV, who noted there are two significant challenges.

“The local economy is crippled by low oil prices. We’ve seen a reduction in production and new wells, as well as commodity prices for agriculture,” Schwaller said.

“The other trend, which is a bit more disturbing and even more out of our control, is that the nature of retail is changing dramatically.”

Schwaller cited a national survey of retail stores that indicated their No. 1 concern is the rise of Amazon and online shopping sites. Nationwide, large chains have announced massive store closures in efforts to trim costs.

Despite that, Schwaller also presented a lengthy list of retailers that are bucking the trend by continuing to open more stores, and said the city should be doing all it can to draw in new shopping opportunities. That list includes companies such as TJ Maxx, Dick’s Sporting Goods and ALDI, all of which would be desirable, Schwaller said.

The City of Hays relies exclusively on sales tax receipts to finance its general operating fund, and commissioners repeatedly have expressed concern over lagging sales during the past year. The discussion also comes after the commission reduced funding by half for the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development, citing frustration with the group’s outcomes.

(Read more: News – The Hays Daily News)