Child care center to fill needs of booming city
By TIM UNRUH Salina Journal
ELLSWORTH — Electric saws and nail guns are setting the beats of progress in Ellsworth, where businesses are expanding or locating.
Projects and plans since 2008 and continuing until 2015 will result in more than 200 jobs, representing a fortune in investment in the town of 2,817 people.
Nestled into the growth is the Ellsworth Childcare and Learning Center, which opens Monday.
The $575,000 center is sorely needed, said Mark Parsons, president of the nonprofit Smoky Hill Childcare Foundation, which owns the 10,000-square-foot building.
“Day care has been great in Ellsworth. It’s just that there’s not enough of it,” said Parsons, owner of Parsons Funeral Home.
The child care center’s ribbon-cutting will be at 4 p.m. Friday.
There is room for 83 children, including nine infants and 10 toddlers, with lots of space for more, said Lainie Dauster, director. When the center is fully staffed, it will employ 13 people.
“It’s really hard to find child care, and with all the businesses coming in, it’s going to be even harder,” she said. “We can meet the immediate need and are also able to expand when the need comes about.”
The center is an economic boost for the town, Parsons said.
“With young people moving to town, and they see a center like that, they know their kids are going to get good day care,” he said.
Manufacturing and other industry is picking up in town, said Carol Kratzer, executive director of the Ellsworth-Kanopolis Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re the place to be,” she said.
Location has been a contributing factor for the city, Kratzer said.
Situated at the intersection of Kansas highways 140 and 156, Ellsworth is a 15-minute drive from Interstate Highway 70.
K-156, a diagonal highway from Garden City to the northeast, “has become a major route through Kansas,” she said.
The town is also situated in the hub of two wind farms — Post Rock Wind Farm, the latest, is about to go into operation. Maico Manufacturing, a steel fabricator, snared a lot of business with its 60-foot-long press break, which puts longitudinal bends in steel, said Dave Cox, the plant manager.
“Most steel fabricators have 12- to 20-foot press breaks,” he said.
The equipment is capable of forming flat steel into multi-sided, tubular shafts.
Maico is making 30 1/2 miles of utility poles for the new wind farm, he said. The company, which employs 65 workers in two shifts, includes 12 hired in the past two to three months, and at least that many more openings.
“I’ve got a couple people weld testing as we speak. We’re trying to increase the employee base,” Cox said Wednesday afternoon.
“There is so much work that we’re turning it down. We just don’t have the manpower to keep up with demand,” he said.
Cashco, a valve manufacturer with a full-time equivalency of 178 employees, is building a new headquarters, “to allow additional room for our growth in our Ellsworth facility,” said Clint Rogers, the general manager.
Cashco has added eight jobs in the past six months, he said, and plans to hire another 28 in the next three years.
An early contributor to the boom was Salina-based Great Plains Manufacturing, which began making tillage equipment in Ellsworth four years ago. Of the company’s 130 workers, 40 were added within the past year, said Roy Applequist, Great Plains’ founder and president. The company is still hiring, he said.
Whatever the reason, Ellsworth is “a happening place,” said Karen Pestinger, one of the owners of Beloit-based Carrico Implement, which will open a new, 54,000-square-foot store in Ellsworth during July or August. Carrico will employ approximately 20 people, she said, and add a few more during the first six months in operation. When the Ellsworth store opens, Carrico’s Lincoln location will close, Pestinger said.
“Right now, there are six or seven construction projects that were either just completed, in progress or about to be started,” said Dave Brownback, president of Citizens State Bank & Trust, which has loaned money for some of the construction.
‘A lot of good things going on’
“There are a lot of good things going on here, more commercial activity than we’ve experienced in a long time,” said Brownback, a cousin of the Kansas governor.
Citizens State and Salina-based First Bank Kansas both have built new branches in northern Ellsworth, along K-140.
“We had just outgrown our building because our community has been so supportive with our branch here,” said Tami McGreevy, a teller and customer service representative at First Bank Kansas in Ellsworth.
The Kansas Department of Corrections expects Gov. Sam Brownback to sign legislation approving the purchase of the former St. Francis Boys’ Home property in Ellsworth, spokesman Jan Lunsford said.
Expected to cost $350,000 or maybe a bit more, he said, the former boys’ home will allow Ellsworth Correctional Facility to move minimum custody inmates there, freeing up medium-security space at the main prison campus. The former boys’ home has space for 95 beds, he said, and will be staffed by the equivalent of 15 full-time workers, Lunsford said.
He expects the expansion to open in September.
“They’ll have to make sure it’s up to code security-wise. They’ve got some adjustments to make there,” Lunsford said.
A new Subway restaurant is under construction and is hiring, said the chamber’s Kratzer. Subway management did not return calls Wednesday.
Pretty Boy Floyd’s, an “upscale steak house,” will open to the public July 5 in Ellsworth Village Mall, said Josie Roehrman, who co-owns the mall and the restaurant with her husband, Mark.
“It’s gonna be awesome,” she said.
The restaurant has hired 10 people, “and we need more,” Josie said.
To make a reservation, starting in about a month, call (785) 472-2183.
A Dollar General Store opened Feb. 14 and currently has three employees, manager Trasa Maguire said.
“We’d like to hire four to five more,” she said.
Ellsworth schools ended the school year with 575 students, not counting the St. Francis enrollment, Superintendent Eric Reid said.
In a Tuesday special election, voters will decide whether to absorb a property tax increase to build new classrooms, a new gymnasium, and do some remodeling, he said.
The $11.3 million project will add $20.12 a month to the taxes on a $100,000 home, if certain state aid is eliminated. If it survives budget cuts, the burden on the same home would be $14.14, said Jan Andrews, Ellsworth County clerk.
The district did not seek the upgrades in anticipation of population growth, Reid said, but the expansion projects shouldn’t hurt enrollment. The district has also added three teaching positions.
“I think we want to be prepared in case we go up and still serve our kids well,” he said. “We want to be prepared either way.”
More students will make the district budget rise, Reid said, but the new businesses and construction will raise the district’s valuation and spread out the tax burden.
The challenge, he said, is places for new folks to live.
“We’ve got to work on our housing needs,” Reid said. “Trying to keep some of those families here instead of commuting would be favorable for us.”
– Reporter Tim Unruh can be reached at 822-1419 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.