Around the Region: Combining Housing and Workforce Needs

This article was published on: 09/26/2023

Challenges Lead Nonprofit Board, Administrator to Get Creative in Approach to Address Needs

image of a renovated home

Nicol Home Facility Administrator Carter Olson renovated and sold this previously vacant home to an employee last year.

Workforce and housing needs often go hand in hand. When recruiting staff was a struggle, Nicol Home Facility Administrator Carter Olson got creative with efforts to address both needs.

When Olson began work in 2018 as Facility Administrator at Nicol Home in Glasco, Kansas, there were 11 employees. The 32-bed skilled nursing facility is a nonprofit. He approached his board about recruitment issues and they ultimately offered relocation bonuses to all staff at different levels. This was just the beginning of his efforts to grow the staff to the 25 who work there today.

Olson also began the search to buy vacant homes to renovate so that he could sell or, in some cases, rent back to his employees. In the past year he matched employees with two homes — one a rental and the other a renovation project that he sold.

“My goal is to breathe life back into a home so an employee can live there secure,” Olson said. “There is a huge benefit to having employees invested and living in the community.”

Carter and his family do much of the labor on the homes, though they have consulted or hired local contractors when a specialty need arises. Olson and his wife have three young children. “Having a young family keeps our mind on what we can do for the town to keep it growing,” Olson said.

The family is careful with their investments. They consider the big-ticket item needs and weigh that into the price of the home and mortgage cost — all while trying to keep it affordable for employees with a short-term mortgage. Some efforts to help place employees in the community have taken less financial investment.

“Sometimes we simply help landlords clean up homes that staff are planning to move into to rent,” Olson said. “We truly care about our employees. Helping them find a suitable place to live is one way that we can show that. Keeping houses full also helps keep the community growing and vibrant.”

The efforts do not stop with housing for Olson or the Nicol Home Board of Directors. He recently helped spearhead fundraising for murals. The result to date is seven murals painted throughout town. Nicol Home recently invested in helping to bring a medical clinic to town. Next, they have their sights set on opening a Glasco community gym.

“I have a great board who have allowed me to invest in the community,” Olson said. “We try to think about what can we do to help keep the community sustainable, because it’s hard to have a successful business without a community.”

Olson was not a stranger to Glasco when he took the job in 2018 with his great grandmother being a former Glasco resident and having visited there for family reunions. He grew up in Kansas City, moved to Wamego his senior year of high school and graduated from K-State.

“My journey has allowed me to bring a different perspective. Things take time to change,” Olson said. “My biggest piece of advice for others is to keep trying and have patience.”

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.