The economy and population in Salina and Saline County are showing positive growth.
According to the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, the Saline County economy grew 12.4 percent from 2020 to 2021, and the City of Salina experienced its first net population growth since 2012.
The economic growth equates to a record over $3 billion in total. This change is equivalent to an addition of $341 million to gross domestic product (GDP); a number that surpasses the highest growth of the recent record in 2017, when GDP increased by 7.3% or $116 million.
“We cannot stress enough what a huge win this is for our growth and overall economic health,” said Renee Duxler, Salina Area Chamber Acting President and CEO, “It really speaks to the public and private partnerships and investments that Salina and Saline County has made the past few years and the dedication of community and business leaders working towards a shared vision for progress.”
While other Kansas counties have seen growth, relatively Saline County has seen the highest percentage change in growth. Shawnee County (Topeka) GDP increased 10.2%, Sedgwick County (Wichita) 9.1%, Riley County (Manhattan) 8.7%, and Reno County (Hutchinson ) by 8.6%. Saline County’s economy contracted in 2020 by 1.1% during the height of the business shutdowns, after posting incremental gains in 2018 and 2019 of 3.3% and 2.1%, respectively. The drastic growth appears to be indicative of high demand for goods and services, including housing and retail trade. Manufacturing, real estate, health care, and retail trade make up over 55% of the county’s GDP.
But while incremental growth was seen across all of these major industries, it was the arts, entertainment and recreation industry that saw the most striking increase, jumping 72.5% – from $8 million at $13.8 million – between 2020 and 2021. This industry’s annual impact on GDP before was $9.9 million total in 2014 and has never increased more than $500,000 year-over-year.
“This is exciting news, particularly as it demonstrates how our arts, entertainment and recreation sector is recovering from the pandemic,” said Sylvia Rice, director of Visit Salina, “along with significant investments to improve facilities recreation and revitalizing downtown, Salina / Saline County is promoted as a destination and attracts visitors who bring new dollars to the area. All of this is generating very healthy economic growth.”
Other positive news for the city of Salina includes the first net population growth since 2012. Despite the nominal increase of 276 people from 2020 to 2021, it marks the first time Salina has lost no population in nearly a decade.
“Hopefully this will mark a change in the tide,” said Duxler, “I think we all feel proud of the energy, collaboration and diligent work that has been done at Salina over the past few years. It’s great to have some hard data that tells us we’re moving in the right direction.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data provided is from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and compiled by Chmura Economics & Analytics. Population data is from the Kansas Division of the Budget, Certified Population Data.