Johnson County shows what happens when enlightened communities invest in excellent K-12 education systems and key public amenities such as strong libraries and lots of parks. People flock to places like that.
The County Economic Research Institute for years has pulled together numbers showing how essential it is for Johnson County to continue providing a high quality of life so people will want to live there.
Here are a few reminders of the county’s value to Kansas:
Johnson County makes up just under 20 percent of the total population in Kansas.
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The county in 2012 provided 23 percent of all full- and part-time employment in the state.
The county’s payroll was 29 percent of the state’s total payroll. Johnson County has high percentages of people working in professional services.
In the last five years, the employment growth in Johnson County has ranged from 10 percent to more than 90 percent of the state’s total growth.
Unfortunately, the tax cuts approved by Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature are causing the kinds of financial problems that could reduce Johnson County’s popularity.
State revenues have fallen $310 million below projections the last two months. If that problem persists, crucial state-financed services could suffer. Or their costs could escalate. In Johnson County, for example, property owners might have to pay higher taxes to adequately finance schools.
As Kansas looks for a way forward economically, it needs to remember the lessons taught by Johnson County. You can’t scrimp on providing public assets that attract people and jobs.