Despite a national recession, the local economy remains robust and diverse, with jobs distributed over the agriculture, energy, manufacturing, health, retail, and government sectors. In 2009, the unemployment rate never exceeded 4.5%; in January, 2010, the rate was approximately 3%. The local workforce consists of nearly 17,000 people.
Agricultural and energy production have always been mainstays of the economy. The agricultural industry is comprised of nearly 750 farms, and Ellis County remains the highest oil-producing county in the state. A review of the county’s major employers reveals a more balanced and diverse economic profile than in past decades. The largest employers include:
- City of Hays and Ellis County governments
- Dillons - Grocery
- Eagle Communications
- EnerSys - Manufacturing
- Hays Medical Center
- Hays School District
- Hess Services - Metal fabrication / oil field supplies
- Midwest Energy - Utilities
- N.E.W. - Inbound call center
- Nex-Tech - Communications
- Wheelchairs of Kansas - Manufacturing
Another measure of the thriving local economy is the county’s trade pull factor of 1.51, which continues as one of the highest in the state. Hays is the regional retail center for Northwest Kansas, with businesses that include Home Depot as well as a variety of national chain hotels and restaurants, department stores, hardware stores, auto dealerships, and parts suppliers.
There are more than 30 destination shopping businesses that include home decor and antique shops, boutiques, and a historic general store. The Chestnut Street District
in recently revitalized downtown Hays offers a mix of retail stores, restaurants, service businesses, art galleries, and a micro brewery.