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Strategic Planning Underway

Survey Results Help Identify Region’s Current Priorities

As an Economic Development Administration (EDA) partnership planning grantee, the NCRPC is responsible for updating a regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) at least every 5 years. A CEDS is a document that serves as a tool to help guide regional economic development efforts.

The NCRPC recently conducted a survey to ensure the 2021 CEDS update reflects the current needs and priorities of the region. Several trends emerged as current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for North Central Kansas. The top five of each are listed below. The complete lists will be included in the CEDS draft document that will be available on our website in August.

“Understanding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of our region through the eyes and from the hearts of those who live and work here is so important for our organization,” NCRPC Executive Director Emily Benedick said.

If you would like to learn more about the CEDS planning process, contact Executive Director Emily Benedick using the contact form.


Listed below are the Top 5 Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of North Central Kansas gathered from a 2021 public survey conducted by the NCRPC.

Strengths
  • Quality of life/low crime rates
  • Sense of community
  • Rural landscape
  • Educational systems and opportunities
  • Central location
Opportunities
  • Entrepreneurship/entrepreneurial growth
  • Housing rehabilitation/development
  • Remote working
  • Youth engagement and retention
  • Business development and support
Weaknesses
  • Housing (quality affordable housing)
  • Aging infrastructure/vacant buildings
  • Childcare availability
  • Loss of population
  • Aging workforce without replacements
Threats
  • Competition from online retail for local businesses
  • Declining rural population
  • Lack of industry/job diversity
  • Competition from urban areas for graduates
  • Aging and/or low skilled workforce

This article appeared in the July 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.



Project Spotlight: City of Blue Rapids Enhances Summer Recreation Opportunities

The City of Blue Rapids swimming pool project was completed earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of Tom Parker)

A recently completed project in the City of Blue Rapids is making a splash this summer.

The project was made possible, in part, through a special round of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding awarded in 2019. The grant award was $763,411. The Small Cities CDBG program is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. The city also contributed more than $580,000 through general obligation bonds and local fundraising efforts.

The project included demolition of the existing swimming pool and construction of an accessible, zero entry swimming pool. The newly constructed pool opened on May 25 with 200 people attending the opening ceremony. The pool closed a month early last summer to begin project demolition and construction.

“The best part of the project is that people are really glad to be able to come to a clean pool and a fun environment,” Blue Rapids City Clerk Chrystal Busey said.

The original facility was built in the early 1950s and repairs had become increasingly burdensome for the community. Local fundraising efforts had been underway for a number of years to update the swimming pool.

“Blue Rapids was presented with a unique opportunity when Kansas Department of Commerce announced this special round of funding,” NCRPC Executive Director Emily Benedick said. “The community had already been working toward updating its pool and that commitment helped pave the way for a successful application.”

The resulting project has enhanced summer recreation opportunities for residents and visitors to the community. The swimming pool is located in Blue Rapids’ City Park located at one of the main entry points into the city along KS HWY 9/US HWY 77. It is also adjacent to the Marshall County Fairgrounds and baseball fields and playgrounds.

On its own, the city also financed a bath house separate from the swimming pool project.

Key partners involved with the project included project engineers CES Group of Marysville and Trinium Contractors, Inc of Manhattan. NCRPC staff provided project planning assistance, grant writing and administration.

There are many great things happening in North Central Kansas. Project Spotlight shares stories from communities around the region and how they solved challenges. To view more Project Spotlights, visit https://www.ncrpc.org/tag/project-spotlight/.

This article appeared in the July 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.



Innovation Stimulus Program Assists Business

Sharp Manufacturing, LLC Selected to Receive Engineering Services

Heather Anderson, one of the owner/operators of Sharp Manufacturing, worked with Technology Development Institute to develop technical drawings of some of the company’s trailers. (Courtesy photo)

Over the past year, many businesses were forced to innovate, adapt or pivot operations. One North Central Kansas business took the opportunity to improve internal functions for manufacturing its trailer variations.

Sharp Manufacturing, LLC was selected to receive “no cost” engineering services through the Innovation Stimulus Program. The program provided support to innovators and manufacturers across the region that were negatively impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Innovation Stimulus Program was a partnership between the Technology Development Institute (TDI) at Kansas State University and the NCRPC. It was made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) through the CARES Act.

Located in Blue Rapids, Sharp Manufacturing, LLC manufactures and sells enclosed trailers through a 50-plus dealer network throughout the Midwest. The company’s product lineup includes more than 20 different sizes and models of trailers.

Sharp Manufacturing was one of three North Central Kansas businesses assisted through the Innovation Stimulus Program. Through the program, Technology Development Institute developed technical drawings of some of Sharp Manufacturing’s product lines. The goals were to increase consistency in fabrication and provide a resource for customers who choose to customize their trailer once purchased.

“Having this information will benefit the company both in terms of product quality and increased sales,” said Jeff Tucker, executive director of the institute. “We were excited to assist Sharp as we see this as a critical step in their future growth plans.”

Technology Development Institute created SolidWorks models of three different trailer widths as well as variations in length, height and number of axles. These models were used to create drawing packages and a bill of material for each trailer variation.

“Working with Jeff and his team through TDI was great,” said Heather Anderson of Sharp Manufacturing. “Getting our trailers into drawings has been something we’ve talked about for a while, we just didn’t have time to get the project complete. We now have the information needed to make modifications per customer request in a timely manner.”

Learn more about Sharp Manufacturing, LLC and Technology Development Institute.

This article appeared in the July 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.



Supporting Housing Needs

Two Nonprofits Continue Mission to Strengthen NCK Housing

Two housing nonprofit organizations were launched in the region in 2018 with the purpose of helping to preserve and strengthen housing in North Central Kansas. That mission continues today.

“We know that housing issues vary throughout the region, but the overall need for housing assistance is a common theme that we hear often,” NCRPC Housing Director Keegan Bailey said.

The first focus of the nonprofits was creating and administering an incentive program to make home buying more affordable through down payment and closing cost assistance. Since 2018, home ownership pilot programs in the region have combined to assist in the purchase of 89 homes with an approximate value of $10.2 million.

“The pilot home ownership programs have proven to be successful and we are continuing efforts to expand the program in the region,” Bailey said. “We also continue to look ahead to what other opportunities exist to support housing efforts.”

The leadership team for both nonprofit organizations include NCRPC staff Emily Benedick, Debra Peters, and Keegan Bailey and Executive Board Treasurer Vicki Steffens. Local advisory committees are also in place for each nonprofit. These committees will expand as additional programming is added.

NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc.

NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. is a 501(c)3 serving Cloud, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic and Saline counties. Current members on the local advisory committee include Landee Thyfault, Cloud County; Debra Kootz, Ellsworth County; Gaylene Sorell, Jewell County; Bree McReynolds-Baetz, Lincoln County; Carol Torkelson, Mitchell County; Alicia Kiefer, Ottawa County; and David Blecha, Republic County.

NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. has completed home ownership programs in Cloud, Ellsworth, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa and Republic counties so far. Funding was recently awarded that will expand the NCK Home Ownership Pilot Program to Jewell and Saline counties with additional information to be announced in the coming weeks.

NCRPC Business Finance Director Debra Peters is the NCK Home Ownership Program Manager. Both nonprofits and their related housing initiatives originally began with funding from the business loan pool that Peters manages. Many partners have been involved with efforts to expand and promote the available programs.

“The success of the pilot programs so far is credited to the funding sources that make it all possible in conjunction with the dedicated staff, committee members, area banks, economic development/chamber representatives, and realtors who help get the word out in the region,” Peters said.

Four Rivers Housing Opportunities, Inc.

Four Rivers Housing Opportunities, Inc. is a 501(c)3 serving Clay, Dickinson, Marshall and Washington counties. Members on the local advisory committee include David Walters, Dickinson County, and Lynn Mayer, Marshall County.

Currently, Four Rivers Housing Opportunities, Inc. is offering a home ownership program in Dickinson County. The program offers down payment and closing cost assistance through loan/grant dollars. It launched in March 2020 and continues until funds are exhausted or when the program ends on December 31, 2021. NCRPC Housing Director Keegan Bailey is the Four Rivers Home Ownership Program Manager.

“The Dickinson County Home Ownership Program can help individuals obtain the home of their dreams while also helping to keep the housing stock occupied and maintained,” Bailey said.

The grant portion of the program in Dickinson County was made possible by several local generous donations. To learn more, contact a participating Dickinson County bank or visit the home ownership web page.

Four Rivers Housing Opportunities, Inc. also completed a successful home ownership program in the City of Marysville in 2019. “This program, along with lower interest rates, jump started the Marysville housing market to a point where we actually have a shortage of homes for sale,” Lynn Mayer, CEO of Citizens State Bank of Marysville and member of the Four Rivers Housing Opportunities, Inc., Advisory Committee said.

Home Ownership Program Updates
home ownership Currently Available: Dickinson County Home Ownership Program

Coming Soon: NCK Home Ownership Program expanding to Jewell and Saline Counties (More information to be announced in the coming weeks)

www.ncrpc.org/services/homeownership/

This article appeared in the May 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.



We Want to Hear from You!

survey imageThe NCRPC is updating its regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and needs your help. We invite you to take a short survey if you live or work in North Central Kansas — including the counties of Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Marshall, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, Saline and Washington.

Your feedback is important to help shape the future of North Central Kansas and help our organization better serve your community needs. Survey input will also ensure the CEDS document reflects the current needs and priorities of the region.

As a thank you for completing the survey, respondents have the option to list a non-profit organization located in the NCRPC 12-county service area. Two survey responses will be randomly selected and a $50 donation will be made to the nonprofit of choice listed by the respondent. Donations will be paid through private funds.

The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete. It will end June 15. Thank you!

Take the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2021nckceds

This article appeared in the May 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.



Project Spotlight: City of Frankfort Completes Project to Improve Truck Route

frankfort truck route project spotlight

The City of Frankfort completed a project in Fall 2020 that improved one of its existing truck routes. The project was funded through a combination of a CDBG grant and a USDA Rural Development loan. (Photo courtesy of Frankfort Area News)

What had been one of the roughest streets to travel in the City of Frankfort is now one of the smoothest after the city completed a major project to improve an existing truck route.

Highways 9 and 99 intersect in the heart of Frankfort’s downtown district. Having two state highways running through town, the city sees a tremendous amount of truck traffic. An east truck route was previously updated and already approved by the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) as an official truck route. The city’s truck route on the west side of downtown was another story.

“The street had tons of pot holes and we couldn’t keep it repaired enough for trucks or even local traffic to use,” Frankfort City Clerk Melody Tommer said. “We wanted it to be an approved KDOT truck route and it is in the process of getting approval from them now.”

The city believes its efforts to improve the route will ultimately help preserve the roads downtown from the wear of heavy truck traffic and decrease congestion in the downtown area.

A 2019 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) award of $265,656 helped make this street project possible. Funding for the project came in the Community Facilities category of the Annual Competitive Grants offered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. In addition, the city put in an equal amount of funds it secured through a USDA Rural Development loan.

The resulting project upgraded the existing highly trafficked west truck route to concrete pavement. Corresponding storm sewer, sidewalks and curb and gutter improvements were also made. The truck route reopened in September 2020. According to the city, the benefits of completing the project have been noticeable.

“It has been a huge improvement,” Tommer said. “Some water and sewer lines were also replaced, along with storm sewer improvements. Trucks and heavy equipment are using it more and more and therefore saving our downtown streets from all the wear and tear.”

Key partners involved with the project included Inline Construction and project engineers CES Group, Inc., both of Marysville. NCRPC staff provided project planning assistance, grant writing and administration.

For more information about the funding sources used for this project or to discuss a project need, contact the NCRPC community development staff.

There are many great things happening in North Central Kansas. Project Spotlight shares stories from communities around the region and how they solved challenges. To view more Project Spotlights, visit https://www.ncrpc.org/tag/project-spotlight/.

This article appeared in the May 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.



Resiliency Efforts Continue

Two added to Project Team; Planning for Free Business and Nonprofit Trainings Underway

The NCRPC is pleased to announce that Deb Ohlde and Laura Leite have joined the organization’s economic recovery and resiliency project team as contracted consultants. They fill the role previously held by the Regional Economic Disaster Recovery Coordinator, supported in part by the EDA CARES Act.

ohlde contracted consultant

Ohlde

Ohlde lives in Clyde and has many years of experience in strategic planning as well as proposal writing/project management in the community development and non-profit sectors. She worked for NCRPC from 1994-2016. Deb currently works for Kansas Corn as the Director of Grower Services, while also occasionally doing small consulting projects. Her focus will be updating the resiliency portion of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Ohlde will be reaching out to various stakeholder groups over the coming months.

Leite lives in Republic and brings extensive experience in program planning and management. She has most recently held positions with Cloud County Community College, Kansas Board of Regents, and Salina Area Technical College. Leite will be coordinating the upcoming business and non-profit trainings.

leite contracted consultant

Leite

“We are excited to have Deb’s knowledge and expertise collaborating with NCRPC again. She was an invaluable asset to the organization before her departure in 2016,” NCRPC Executive Director Emily Benedick said. “In addition, Laura comes highly recommended and we are thrilled to have her on board.”

The NCRPC has released a Request for Proposals for delivery of training and technical assistance to businesses and non-profits located in the 12-county service area. The deadline for proposals is May 21. It is anticipated that a schedule of initial trainings will be available by mid-July.

“We look forward to building a cadre of professionals who can deliver personalized training to businesses and nonprofits in North Central Kansas,” coordinator Laura Leite said.

This article appeared in the May 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.



Request for Proposals for Delivery of Training and Technical Assistance for Region’s Businesses and Non-Profits

The North Central Regional Planning Commission (NCRPC) has released a Request for Proposals for delivery of training and technical assistance to businesses and non-profits located in NCRPC’s 12-county service area.

Experienced firms, groups, or individuals are invited to submit proposals that focus on providing training and technical assistance in the following areas: Developing an Online Presence; Business Continuity/Succession Planning; Employee Recruitment; Non-Profit Board Retention and Development; Business and Non-Profit Basics; and Grocery Store Specific Training.

The NCRPC currently serves the following counties in North Central Kansas: Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Marshall, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, Saline and Washington. This RFP and the resulting trainings/technical assistance are being developed as part of the region’s response and recovery to the economic impacts of COVID-19. It is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Commerce EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant awarded to the NCRPC. A schedule of training is anticipated to be available in July.

“We look forward to building a cadre of professionals who can deliver personalized training to businesses and nonprofits in North Central Kansas,” training coordinator Laura Leite said. “Another goal is for training to continue through on-demand and web access into the future. A resource bank will also be developed to include online training, sites with general information and links to service providers who specialize in non-profit and small business support.”

NCRPC will host a call on Wednesday, May 12 at 10 a.m. to answer any questions about information contained in this RFP. Proposals are being accepted until May 21, 2021. To view the RFP, visit www.ncrpc.org/procurement/rfps.



Two High School Seniors Receive Rural Voices Contest Awards

image of rural voices 2020-2021 contest themeTwo high school seniors in North Central Kansas are being recognized with the John R. Cyr Rural Voices Award for submitting the top entries in the 2020-2021 Rural Voices Youth Contest sponsored by the NCRPC.

Avery Johnson, a senior at Beloit Jr-Sr High School, and Carrie Roe, a senior at Herington High School, submitted the winning entries in this year’s contest. Each will receive a cash award of $850. The contest awards are named in honor of John Cyr who served for 22 years as the NCRPC Executive Director. Since 2006, more than $26,000 has been awarded through the Rural Voices contest.

Students had the option to submit an original essay or video reflective of this year’s contest theme of “Rural Kansas…Tomorrow’s Possibilities.” High school seniors in the 12-county NCRPC service area were eligible to participate.

“The Rural Voices Youth Contest provides an excellent opportunity for high school seniors to truly reflect on how living in rural Kansas has shaped their lives,” NCRPC Executive Director Emily Benedick said. “In a time when recruiting our youth back to rural Kansas becomes increasingly difficult, I think the Rural Voices process leaves participants with a greater sense of appreciation for a rural upbringing.”

Details on the 2021-2022 Rural Voices Youth Contest will be announced in the Fall.

View the winning entries

From the Winners…

“As with all rural populations we face challenges that will test the progression of our community. However, we are blessed with strong community leadership, generational visionaries, and passionate citizens who are dedicated to the continued advancement of our small but mighty community. My vision of 2030 is following the road back home and leading my generation through the same continued excellence.”

Avery Johnson | submitted top video entry

“I’ve enjoyed every moment of growing up in a small town, which is why it was so important that others understand that rural Kansas has so many opportunities for people to be successful and thrive. We need to protect our rural communities and give them the chance to prosper so they can do the same for future generations.”

Carrie Roe | submitted top written entry

This article appeared in the March 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.



CDBG Awards Announced

Good news came to several North Central Kansas communities last month in the form of a grant award. The awards will help complete a variety of improvement projects across the region. The funding comes from the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce.

NCRPC staff assisted with the following projects and will provide project administration.

The City of Concordia was awarded $48,975 for the demolition of dilapidated houses and garages/sheds. The city will contribute an equal amount in matching funds.

Lincoln County was awarded $35,763 for three new warning sirens. The county will contribute an equal amount in matching funds.

The City of Mankato was awarded $600,000 for water distribution system improvements. The city will provide $2,399,857 in matching funds it secured through USDA Rural Development.

The City of Vermillion was awarded $250,000 for a water source and distribution improvement project. The city will provide $1,374,007 in matching funds it is securing through USDA Rural Development grant and loan funds.

The City of Wilson was awarded $300,000 for housing rehabilitation and demolition. Local matching funds will provide another $11,750 for the project.

For more information about the CDBG program, visit the Kansas Department of Commerce or contact the NCRPC staff.

This article appeared in the March 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.



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