By LARRY PHILLIPS
• Daily Leader
The Liberal Chamber of Commerce has studied the expansion project proposed by Southwest Medical Center and decided to endorse those plans, according to the Chamber Executive Director Rozelle Webb.
“We took a poll on our Web site, and 95 percent of the chamber members that responded agreed with the expansion,” Webb said. “So, the board voted unanimously at our last board meeting to endorse the project.
“It’s definitely an economic development plus for our community,” she added.
Chamber president Robert Burkey expanded on the economic aspect of the issue in his column for the chamber’s February newsletter, the “Liberal Business Monthly.”
“Let’s talk economic development and the great opportunity that we, as a community, have to support a project that will greatly impact our local economy in a positive way. The proposed Southwest Medical Center building project is a true investment in our community’s future and a major economic development step forward for our area,” Burkey noted.
“In its simplest form, positive economic development happens when you bring outside dollars into your community. When we build something in Liberal and sell it outside our area, or when people from outside our area come to Liberal and spend their money. Either way, money from somewhere else comes to our area that was not here before, that makes our economy grow. SWMC is a great example of a primary business in Liberal that positively impacts our local economy.
“On March 2, our community gets to go vote on whether SWMC will be able to issue General Obligation Bonds to pay for much needed improvements and expansion,” Burkey continued. “When you consider that 100 percent of the bonds will be paid back by hospital revenues – not tax dollars – and 35 percent of SWMC patients are from outside Seward County, that means more than a third of the project will be paid for by money from outside our immediate area. We, as a community, get to benefit from a much improved and updated medical facility and have a third of it paid for by someone else and still no tax dollars used. Positive economic development, outside money coming into our community, in its simplest form.”
Webb confirmed this is the first time in quit awhile that the Chamber has endorsed a public project. Burkey addressed that same issue in his column.
“If you read Article 1, Section 2 under the heading ‘Object’ of the Liberal Area Chamber of Commerce by-laws, it reads, ‘The Liberal Area Chamber of Commerce is organized to advance the general welfare and prosperity of the Liberal area so that its citizens and all areas of its business community shall prosper,” Burkey wrote. “All necessary means of promotion shall be provided and particular attention and emphasis shall be given to the economic, civic, commercial, industrial and educational interest of the area.
“Even though our by-laws state that this is our objective, I think the board unanimously made the decision to back this project because it is just the right thing to do for a project that is such a big plus for our area.
“If you are unsure of all the facts of the project, I strongly encourage you to get the facts and get out and vote on March 2nd,” Burkey added.