PARSONS, Kans. — It’s a time of economic recovery across Kansas.
But while some have returned to pre-pandemic conditions, others haven’t. It’s getting close in Labette County, and now officials are looking at the final steps to continue the comeback.
“Reports show that Parsons and Labette County are right, almost where we were pre-COVID,” said Jim Zaleski, Parsons Economic Development Director.
While unemployment may have jumped to almost 9% in Labette County at the start of the pandemic, it’s almost back to normal, now sitting at around three and a half percent according to Wichita State University.
“If I can say anything about our economic leaders across the state, Department of Commerce, they have taken this and rebounded in spite of a recession-driven type of situation.”
While employment may have taken a hit, wages and retail sales increased, so this has county leaders looking at ways to maintain it.
“How do you bring employment numbers back up to pre-COVID levels and pay the higher wage that COVID dictated? That’s a challenge that every business in the state will have to face.”
One solution comes in the form of addressing one of the issues Kansas has experienced since before the pandemic.
“We need more workers, that’s the bottom line, but we can’t have more workers until we have more places for them to live in the state. Market was tight pre-COVID, now it’s not just tight, it’s squeezed to it’s extension. You’re supposed to have a six-month housing inventory, we’re lucky if we have six days.”
So this has places like Parsons looking at a three-pronged approach to make the most of the market it does have.
“Demolition of old property, infill of that property, and rebuilding of new property and new infrastructure for new higher-end housing. That’s the only way you raise the entire valuation of the housing market in any given government entity, all three have to be successful,” added Zaleski.