Editorial: The second 100

Sunday, September 27, 1987

Though the restless wraith of long-departed Hutch entrepreneur Ben Blanchard still might not feel too satisfied, the Salt City is now into its second century of salt mining. And, as of late this morning, there's still enough salt left for 2,500 more centuries.

That's a lot of salt. But in the days since Sept. 27, 1887, and Ben Blanchard's discovery of the vast salt deposits beneath Hutch, more entrepreneuring entrepreneurs and their associates have blasted, evaporated, shipped (and at least one of them schemed a bit imprudently) their ways through 45 million tons at a current rate of about $50 million a year.

The tonnage has been enormous. And so has the influence of salt on Hutchinson. But, curiously, at a time in the city's history when all industrial and commercial virtue seems to be measured only by the number of jobs created, salt has never led to that many jobs at any one time, or, indeed, at any time. Today, as in years past, the direct salt employment is around 500.

That's about half the current employment at Cessna. It's a fraction of the employment at Cessna in the glory years. It's comparable to today's Doskocil. It's far less than the jobs Hutchinson's governmental units create. Those relatively few salt jobs, however, have gone a long way in highlighting as well as identifying a community, as Hutchinson shared its mineral wealth with the world. And, as the salt industry in the Salt City begins its second 100 years, the outlook will be as optimistic as the industry's successes in the first 100 years would suggest.

The enduring successes in what its current leaders describe as a mature industry in Hutchinson should also serve to remind everyone that strong and progressive communities will always be built with a great variety of commerce, services and industries, many of which (like salt) can have a beneficial impact far greater than a job count alone would imply. Hutchinson salutes its salt industry on this, its 100th birthday, en route to what some day will be its 250,000th birthday.

Reprinted from an Oct. 1, 1987, editorial.