BY ALICIA FEYERHERM
Executive Director of Grow Hays Doug Williams provided an update to the Hays City Commission on Thursday about the progress Grow Hays has made over the past year.
Williams showed a “Rural Hierarchy of Needs” where housing and education were at the base of the pyramid. Between the passing of the USD 489 school bond and the new housing developments created in 2022, Williams feels like Hays made progress in those two areas last year.
Grow Hays also started preliminary planning for a MicroFactory. This 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility will be an incubator for startups and the expansion of small manufacturers.
Grow Hays received a $2,630,000 BASE grant for the project, a $500,000 grant from the Patterson Family Foundation and Heart of America donated a lot which was valued at $275,000. With the cost of materials rising, these funding sources still do not fully cover the needs of the project.
Network Kansas is a partner with Grow Hays, and together they hosted a Youth Entrepreneurship Program as well as an “ICE House – Think Like an Entrepreneur” class over the summer. Network Kansas also loaned just under $200,000 to six different small businesses.
In 2022, 17 new businesses were started in Hays and five more are set to open in the next few months.
All 36 homes in the Heart of America Tallgrass development have been sold. Nineteen of those houses are currently occupied, five more will be complete within two months and the remaining houses are in various stages of construction.
Commissioner Sandy Jacobs applauded the work of those who helped with the development.
“I think your foresight, the foresight of Heart of America Corporation, all the work that the City has done, everybody should be patting themselves on the back,” Jacobs said.
Williams accepted the praise but emphasized that the fight for affordable housing is far from over.
“It is not enough,” Williams said. “We are not doing enough and I think we need to be cognizant of that.”
Hays still suffers from a housing shortage and cannot keep up with demand.
“We managed to pick the absolute worst time in the history of mankind to build stuff,” Williams said. “Costs are high and it’s hard to find people to do it and that kind of thing, but that doesn’t matter. We have to figure out how we overcome.”
Finally, Williams discussed a new development called “The Grove.” The Grove will be a 100+ unit, $40 million residential development project located north of Hays Medical Center. The development will include Patio homes, Duplex/Townhouses, Multi-Family Units and a Community Center.
Commissioner Shaun Musil has doubts about the development.
“I struggle with the price range, or what I assume it will be, but you have proved me wrong a lot of times,” Musil said.
City Mayor Mason Ruder is excited about the project.
“This popped up because of how much collaboration between so many different players. It’s incredible seeing the community working together to tackle our needs,” Ruder said.
Ruder is not concerned with the price point.
“Let’s do it and let’s do it right,” Ruder said. “Let’s go big. Let’s get it taken care of.”
Other items addressed at the meeting included:
- Authorizing the City Manager to enter a contract with Hess Services, Inc. for sanitary and sewer improvements along 55th and 58th streets
- Approval of an ordinance to vacate the 10-foot-wide platted alley located along the west side of the Westbrook Addition
The next Hays City Commission meeting will be at 4:00 p.m. on February 9.