While residents in several cities in America are struggling to find jobs, Ford County Kansas is somewhat of an anomaly. From October 2011 to October 2012, unemployment in Ford County fell from 3.9 percent to just 3.3 percent, well below the national average.
"The economy is strong in Ford County, and all of Southwest Kansas," said Dan Schenkein, president of the Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce. "We have jobs available here for everyone. Our numbers are so low that I think only the unemployable are being counted right now; we don't really have unemployment."
What Schenkein means is, here in Ford County, if a person is able to work, they can find a job. And more than likely it will be a well paying job in a field they want to work in, with good benefits too. People aren’t settling for minimum wage here, because they don't have to.
"We have a strong workforce here," Schenkein said. "And we have a great supply of natural resources in the area - wind, oil and gas - and Ford County is primarily an agriculture community. No matter what, people still have to eat, and they always will. I think that helps our community a lot."
According to the December Chamber of Commerce newsletter, and numbers provided by the city, the labor force includes 20,125 individuals, up from 19,742 last year. Employment is up to 19,466 from 18,952 last year. Unemployment is down to 659 from 772 last year.
"We have a system here of creating and maintaining jobs that can support a family that other communities envy," Schenkein said.
Cost of Living
Dodge City is also below average for the cost of living standard.
Each quarter, the American Chamber of Commerce Research Association surveys different communities across the country to find out the cost of everyday items such as bread, milk, cheese, meat, etc., then they take a baseline of 100 and rate the cities accordingly. New York City has a cost of living 229.5 percent higher than the average, but Dodge City falls at 94 percent of the average, meaning it is six percent less than the average cost of living.
"Cost of living is determined by several factors," Schenkein said. "It's all relative to the local market prices."
In places where goods and services cost more, there's going to be a high cost of living. But to balance that out there should also be a higher minimum wage.
"We are fortunate here in Ford County because people are working and employers are paying. We haven't really experienced the recession like a lot of places have," Schenkein said. "There are a lot of cities that haven't been so lucky."