In the last few articles, I’ve discussed the importance of cities and how important it is that people get engaged with the growth that is happening in Pittsburg. In the next articles, I will talk about what growth looks like and what it means, the sources of this growth, and how to keep it going.
Over the last eight years, there has been $600 million of investment in Pittsburg, and the creation of over 1,750 jobs. That is a significant amount for a town of 20,000 people, and only about 7% of this investment has come from city resources - the investment has come primarily from private sources, not tax dollars. Importantly, this investment has not been in only one or two businesses but has been distributed throughout multiple areas of our economy. There have been tens of millions of dollars spent on facilities for industry, infrastructure, medical, housing, entertainment, retail, and education. Last year alone there was $50 million of investment, with only 3% city funding. The private sector has made (and continues to make) substantial investments in Pittsburg. One of our primary goals at the City is to create an environment which allows these types of investments to occur. We are fortunate they have.
The growth here is important to the entire region. Pittsburg is the economic engine of southeast Kansas and has been able to provide jobs and amenities to people who want to remain in the area. Two-thirds of the people who work in Pittsburg do not live in the city. The dynamic businesses here continue to provide jobs that support the entire region. People from all over southeast Kansas come to work, shop, and play.
One of the standard statistics used to measure the health of a retail environment is called the ‘Trade Pull Factor’. If the sales in a town are what would be expected from the town’s population, the Trade Pull Factor would be 1.0. Pittsburg’s Trade Pull Factor is 1.9. This means that almost every other sale is from someone who doesn’t live in town. The most obvious result of this is a significant growth in sales tax over the last few years. Pittsburg has had double-digit sales tax growth over the last three years, and even during the pandemic, the sales tax rose.
The local economy is in an expansion not seen for decades. The unemployment rate is 2%. The overall gross domestic product (a measure of the total value of goods and services produced) in the Pittsburg micropolitan area has increased 38%. Last year alone, there was $35 million worth of commercial building activity. An increase of over 1,700 jobs the last several years (with 502 just last year) has happened along with an increase in wages of over 20%. More people are making more money than ever before, which has translated into an increase in community wealth. There has been a growth of 10% in the middle class, an increase in $230 million held in local banks, and the highest average FICO scores (a measure of an individual’s credit rating) ever recorded.
The strong Pittsburg economy is getting national recognition too. Site Selection magazine ranks Pittsburg in the top 16% of all micropolitan areas as a business location. PC Magazine ranks Pittsburg as the 31st best city nationwide in which to work from home. U.S. News and World Report ranked the Pittsburg area significantly higher than 800 similar cities referred to as ‘urban, up-and-coming’.
By almost every measure, the people of Pittsburg are better off than they were ten years ago. So how did this happen? What changed to put Pittsburg on this growth trajectory? There are many factors at play, and I will discuss them in the next article.