By SCOTT AUST
Director of Communications/Finney County Economic Development
GARDEN CITY — Kansas Secretary of Commerce David Toland visited with local elected officials and community leaders in Finney County on Tuesday to learn first-hand about the community’s success in growing the economy over the past several years.
“I’ve had a tremendous experience here in Garden City and Finney County. We’ve toured everything from industrial sites to residential development to the hospital and health care, and then we had a wonderful tour at Parrot Cove and got to review the plans for Sports of the World and talk about how that’s developing,” Toland said. “I’m particularly excited about that since that’s the first star bond project I’ve approved as secretary of commerce.”
Toland and local officials took a transit bus tour Tuesday afternoon of more than 20 different locations in Garden City and Finney County that have successfully used economic development tools available in the state, including the downtown district, Pioneer Estates, Schulman Crossing, the Garden City Transload facility, Dairy Farmers of America and more.
Lona DuVall, President and CEO of Finney County Economic Development Corp., welcomed Toland and his staff and noted that all the projects the group toured were a direct result of the community’s team approach to development.
“We don’t do projects for economic development’s sake alone. Instead we opt to capitalize on economic development projects in order to increase our capacity for community development — focusing on meeting the needs of our very diverse population and built environment enhancements.”
One of the stops along the route included a tour of the Parrot Cove Indoor Water Park, where Toland had the opportunity to review current plans for the Sports of the World complex, which is being partially funded using the state’s STAR Bond program.
Toland said he was pleased that the first STAR Bond project he signed off on as Commerce Secretary was Garden City’s project, adding that rural towns sometimes feel overlooked — something he understands due to growing up in a small, rural town himself.
“I know that can be the same out here as well. I get that. I want to try to use more of the tools that we have at the Department of Commerce to get projects done in communities where they otherwise might not be happening,” he said. “So not only is it the right community, but we scrutinized this (project) very closely, and the economics are just incredibly solid. I’m grateful for the leadership and this investment.”
Toland also visited Scott City, Lakin and Liberal this week. Initially, Toland pointed out, he and his staff planned to fly to southwest Kansas but poor weather prevented the flight. Rather than cancel the trip, Toland was adamant that he and his staff make the drive out here instead.
“There’s two purposes to this tour. Number 1, I want to listen, I want to hear what’s going on on the ground, what the concerns are that people have and what we can do from Commerce to be supportive of efforts here,” he said. “But Number 2, I also think it’s important that state government show up and be present in all parts of the state, not just eastern Kansas. So I’m touring six regions this summer, and on purpose, by design, I am in southwest Kansas first.”
Tom Walker, president of the FCEDC Board of Directors, thanked Sec. Toland for visiting the community and making southwest Kansas a priority.
Toland, an Iola native, was confirmed as Commerce Secretary in April. He began serving as acting Secretary in January when Gov. Laura Kelly took office.