Harvey County unemployment rate up, EDC looking at options

There is a number that Beth Shelton, director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council, is pondering on a daily basis: 6.2 percent.

That is the current unemployment rate for Harvey County, according to the Kansas Department of Labor. Only two Kansas counties — Atchison and Linn, have a higher unemployment rate right now.

“Generally we are at 3.7,” Shelton said. “That is high for us. … I was surprised when I saw it.”

She said manufacturing layoffs have led to that increase.

“We have to be looking at jobs equal to or better than the jobs people lost,” Shelton said.

According to the Kansas Department of Labor, there are 1,120 people in Harvey County unemployed. That’s another number Shelton ponders.

With layoffs in the manufacturing sector, and 1,120 people out of work, she spotted a project that she and the board of the EDC thought was worth exploring: a Tyson chicken packing plant.

“There are about 1,500 jobs at the hourly rate and about 200 jobs that are management salary,” Shelton said. “The jobs are $13.50 to $14.50 per hour. They are good paying jobs with good benefits.”

(Read more: Newton Kansan)