From the Mayor 06/15/16

Reprinted with permission from the Independence Daily Reporter

You may have heard that Annie and I spent several years researching and visiting cities across Kansas before choosing to live in Independence. Naturally, we’re often asked, “Why did you choose Independence?”

There are so many pieces to that answer. One attraction was the magnificent park and zoo. Another was the incredible downtown. The profusion of great historic homes. The best small library in America. Cessna. The Ash Center’s indoor swimming pool. Elk City Reservoir. The list goes on and on.

But one thing that may not be as obvious is the presence of Independence Community College.

It’s true that other cities also have higher education, but not many towns in Kansas have a college. You may not know that Kansas has 1,342 cities and only 19 community colleges.

Having a college in a town makes a noticeable difference in the quality of life in that town. I’m not certain why a college impacts a community so profoundly but I know that it does.

Part of that equation is surely the fact that the college is a major employer. Recent figures show that ICC was employing faculty and staff equivalent to 212 full-time employees. The college is therefore one of our largest employers. Total payroll at ICC was $4.2 million and 79 percent of the employees lived in the ICC service area, so much of this $4.2 million was spent locally for groceries, restaurants, clothing, and bribes to city commissioners. (I added that joke as some fuel for the Topix dwellers.)

But I believe the impact goes way beyond the payroll dollars.

Another proven benefit to a community comes about due to the savings generated by the improved lifestyles of students. For example, education is statistically correlated with a variety of lifestyle changes that generate savings in the area of health costs. Proven health savings include avoided medical costs associated with smoking, alcoholism, obesity, drug abuse, and mental disorders.

You could easily argue that ICC helps reduce crime as education levels are inversely correlated to levels of crime. Some of these documented crime savings include reduced security expenditures and insurance administration, lower victim costs, and reduced criminal justice system expenditures.

Another benefit of having ICC is unemployment; education levels are inversely correlated to levels of unemployment.

In my mind though, other benefits equal or exceed the strictly financial benefits.

The drama programs, including the William Inge Theatre Festival, add an amazing amount of culture for a small city. The sports teams add spirit and vitality. As you may have read in the newspaper recently, the ICC debate team is nationally renowned. Veterinary Tech and cosmetology programs also add excellence and breadth to ICC’s offerings. As a fanatical eater, I’m personally ecstatic that ICC is adding a new culinary program.

And, our Fab Lab and Innovation program led by Jim Correll and Tim Haynes have already had, and will continue to have, a profound impact on our community. Every time I think about that little girl coming to ICC for a custom-made prosthetic hand, my heart just soars.

I’m not a graduate of ICC, but I may sound like one, because I am so proud of that school.

You should be, too.

Mayor Gary Hogsett