Blog Archives

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:

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

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 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


“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

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.

Project Spotlight: City of Tipton Solves Drainage Issues

image from City of Tipton, KS drainage system improvement project

A recent project in the City of Tipton improved the city’s storm drainage system.

Perseverance paid off for the City of Tipton. When the first attempt to secure project funding for a storm drainage system improvement project was denied, the city council went back to the drawing board and narrowed the scope of work. Those efforts were rewarded with funding from the Kansas Department of Commerce Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program in the community facilities category. The 2019 award of $101,665 was matched with an equal amount from the city.

The resulting project improved the city’s storm drainage system by installing new culvert pipes, a portion of enclosed storm sewer, area inlets, ditch grading and minor street repairs. It was completed in Fall 2020.

Residents and visitors alike have noticed and appreciated the changes. Prior to the project, there were significant problems with erosion, silting, drainage, standing water and mowing. This project eliminated those issues and solved a problem that had been on the city’s radar for many years.

“When I started on the city council in 1993, one of the first requests I received was to do something about the ditch on Main Street,” Tipton City Clerk Joanne Brummer said.

image from City of Tipton, KS drainage system improvement project

The addition of area inlets on Main Street help collect the water coming off of the road.

According to city council members, the project benefits have been numerous. The overall appearance has improved, the system is easier to maintain, safety issues with the deep ditches were resolved, and there is also potential for growth with improved access to empty lots.

Jessica Krier, a member of the Tipton City Council, is a homeowner on south Main Street adjacent to the recent project.

“We have been very pleased with the results of the recent drainage project in Tipton,” Krier said. “Since moving in to this home, I have stressed about the water collecting in the ditch with younger children. Thankfully, this project has not only upgraded the appearance of our home, but it has also greatly improved the safety of our yard for my family.”

Key partners involved with the project included Ron Schlaefli Construction and project engineers Schwab Eaton. NCRPC staff provided project planning assistance, grant writing and administration.

The City of Tipton, a small community located in the southwest corner of Mitchell County, is no stranger to improvement projects.

“Tipton’s citizens demonstrate a great deal of pride and commitment to solving problems and continually improving their community,” NCRPC Community Development Representative Amanda Horn said.

The Tipton City Council says they have been fortunate to receive a number of grants over the years to help fund various projects.

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

This article appeared in the March 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

NCK Business Relief Loan Program Update

Second Phase Announced for Businesses Less than 2 Years Old

A second phase of the NCK Business Relief Loan Program is now available — this time for businesses less than two years old.

image of NCK Business Relief Loan Program Logo

“This next phase was developed to help businesses that have not been eligible for some of the other COVID-19 economic relief programs that are available due to the start date of the business,” NCRPC Business Finance Director Debra Peters said.

The newest loan funding will assist start-up businesses in North Central Kansas adversely impacted by COVID-19. Businesses must be less than 2 years old and have started no later than August 1, 2020. Funding requests for the program are being accepted on qualified applications on a first come, first served basis until funds are exhausted or the program ends on December 31, 2021. All owners must have a credit score of 700 or greater prior to the pandemic.

The new program provides loans on favorable terms for response and recovery needs due to the COVID-19 crisis. For-profit businesses less than 2 years old in Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Marshall, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, Saline, and Washington counties are eligible for the program. Loan funds may be used for operating capital/inventory and asset purchases needed to pivot operations/increase productivity.

Phase 1 of the NCK Business Relief Loan Program launched in November 2020. The NCRPC is administering the program. Phase 1 was made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA). Program demand was high and all funds were allocated by December 31, 2020.

Funding for the new phase was made possible through generous donations from area banks and the NCKCN-Four Rivers Business Loan Pool.
Visit the NCK Business Relief Loan Fund – Businesses Less than 2 Years Old page to learn more.

This article appeared in the March 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

Leadership Lessons Learned

Scholarship Recipient Reflects on Training Experience

By Ellen Barber

Leadership has many definitions, but I like the one the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) uses — “It’s an activity that mobilizes others to make progress on difficult challenges.” Anyone can do that sort of leadership; they don’t have to have a title. I guess that speaks to me too, because what I do, economic development, is all about doing the hard things, and not doing it alone, because that’s just impossible.

image of ellen barber

Ellen Barber is Executive Director of Marshall County Partnership 4 Growth and was the first recipient of the McKinney Leadership Scholarship.

I was able to attend the KLC’s Leadership Edge Class via Zoom recently on the Doug McKinney Scholarship from the North Central Regional Planning Commission. It was a unique covid-safe experience with nearly 200 people sharing the screen and being “dropped” into small groups for fleshing out the concepts.

Something I learned was that there are two parts to leadership and choosing the skills that go with each type becomes crucial to success. One type is the how-to or technical skill side. I deal with this having to follow rules in speaking to city councils, in writing a grant, or finding research. There isn’t usually a lot of conflict or different interpretations here.

But the other leadership part is adaptive. It requires “new learning with stakeholders engaged in smart experimentation.” Lots of interpretation here! That’s where the leadership gets hard. Cultures at work, home, and community don’t always care to experiment or try new things. There is unwanted conflict that comes from the “unspoken motivations” involved with changes to a system. Yet an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow and try new things to benefit others is a key to any progress. Leaders realize some conflict is necessary if there is to be new growth. Challenging the status quo and asking good questions helps people grow their viewpoints.

In the class, we shared an issue and then challenged each other with questions that made us think deeply about how we were handling that issue. Were we involving all the stakeholders needed to truly solve a problem? What kinds of smart experimentation were we leading our group to try?

Shortly after the class, I found out that the Marysville Pony Express Museum and the Convention and Tourism office were working to join ranks to solve some shared staffing problems. I found this a great example of leadership. They were working on the technical things like the job descriptions each group would share with the one person who would work part-time with both groups. But they were also doing the creative side of how to meld values and what sort of system would attract and keep a great employee.

I am pleased to earlier see our Chamber and Main Street join under one roof, and now two entities of tourism. Topeka has combined 11 offices with similar economic goals under one roof, and Manhattan has one office with many facets for economic development and a single website that covers all of the city, tourism, development ideas, and even the town’s job site. It’s a stretching idea, but much more progress has come with working together to share the challenges, ideas and purpose. NCRPC is also a great example of so many segments of regional development working under one roof with great success.

Any organization can make progress when we take action not only on the how-to side of leadership, but also the creative, adaptive side where we are willing to try new things to solve old problems…and even if they should fail, it will lead to the next better outcome from the lessons learned. To those who aspire to better leadership, keep on taking (technical and adaptive) actions to motivate each other to do the hard things!

This article appeared in the March 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

Rural Voices 2020-2021 Winners Announced

Congratulations to the 2020-2021 Rural Voices Youth Contest winners!

  • image of 2020-2021 Rural Voices Contest logoAvery Johnson, Beloit Jr. Sr. High School
  • Carrie Roe, Herington High School

View the winning entries below.

About the Contest

The NCRPC sponsors the Rural Voices Youth Contest each year to engage high school seniors in North Central Kansas in thoughtful reflection on rural Kansas and to promote a discussion among citizens based on their insights. The 2020-2021 theme was “Rural Kansas…Tomorrow’s Possibilities.”

By Avery Johnson

By Carrie Roe

Rural Kansas — the best place to grow up. I am a fifth generation resident of the little town of Herington, which is located in the southeast corner of Dickinson County. I was born and raised in this railroad town of just 2,264 people, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. My dad grew up in Belleville, another small community in North Central Kansas, but my parents made the decision to live in Herington because they wanted us to build valuable relationships with extended family. My maternal grandparents own farmland that has been in the family for over 100 years, and it’s the pride they take in caring for this land that makes me want to raise my own family in rural Kansas.

The endless number of opportunities that are available in a small town are significant. When I was younger, I spent the majority of my time riding bikes with my siblings, swimming at my neighbor’s pool, and going to church with my family. The school bus stop was right outside my front door, so I’d talk with my friends before engaging in a full day of learning with my class of just 30 kids. Now, I’m able to represent Herington in all sports and extracurricular activities. My teachers know my name and my plans for the future, and help build me up to the person I need to be to reach my goals. Residents of Herington will see me mentioned in the local newspaper and never fail to congratulate me for my accomplishments on the volleyball court, for winning Homecoming Queen, or anything else far and in between. It’s blessings like these that just don’t come from a bigger town. Many people don’t understand that small town living is a hidden gem that needs to be discovered… Rural Kansas can become tomorrow’s possibilities, but will have to overcome challenges and setbacks to reach its full potential to thrive.

From the beginning of time, Herington has been a hub for a number of rail lines, including the Rock Island, Cotton Belt Route, Southern Pacific, and Union Pacific Railroads. The Union Pacific still uses Herington to this day. In recent years, Herington has begun to transform into a recreation destination, with numerous opportunities for fishing and camping at the Herington Lake, which covers 367 acres, and the Herington Reservoir, which covers 555 acres. The city also offers opportunities for hiking and horseback riding because we are in the western end of the Flint Hills Trail, a state park that stretches for 119 miles, from Osawatomie in the east to Herington in the west.

While all of these components of Herington are positives that we need to continue to build upon, there are definitely some struggles of living in a smaller farm town. For example, Herington is losing small businesses. My grandma remembers a movie theatre, skating rink, two grocery stores, lumber yards, pharmacies, and three banks. Now, however, we are just barely lucky enough to have a grocery store, two banks, a hospital, and a few hair salons. So many of our residents would rather take the 30 mile trip to Junction City to shop at Walmart, rather than walk down the street to shop locally. Without support from the citizens of Herington, our remaining small businesses will be forced to close. Another problem in Herington, as well as many other rural Kansas towns, is lack of income and job opportunities. Herington’s poverty rate is 23.47 percent. Many residents are born in the vicious cycle of poverty and aren’t quite sure how to work their way out of it. Citizens of smaller communities are in desperate need of a breath of new life, and here’s how to create it.

Strong communities are the lifeblood of Kansas. To build stronger towns, Community Development Programs sponsored by the Kansas Department of Commerce may be able to help rural areas with their businesses and main streets. Commercial rehabilitation grants help cities improve the quality of their downtown structures by assisting private property owners in the restoration of rundown buildings. The goal is that these grant funds will help prevent the spread of bad conditions to other nearby structures. Another program of the Kansas Department of Commerce is the Kansas Main Street program, which provides technical assistance and support for communities working on developing ways to revitalize and strengthen their downtown. It is centered around four points: economic vitality, design, promotion and organization. These strategies guide the local program toward a distinct vision of what they want their community to be. Per the Kansas Department of Commerce website, from 1985 to 2012, more than $600 million in redevelopment took place in participating Kansas communities. This included the opening or expansion of 3,800 small businesses, and creating more than 8,600 new jobs. With the return of the state program in 2020, 25 returning communities and new programs will be provided with the resources and tools they need to spark their potential. Another program sponsored by the state of Kansas has designated 77 counties as “Rural Opportunity Zones,” which means moving there brings a significant number of benefits. These designated counties offer new full-time residents state income tax waivers for up to five years and/or student loan repayments of up to $15,000 over a period of five years. I believe the state may need to expand this classification to more rural counties in an effort to bring the younger generation back to the heart of our state.

In correlation to these state programs, recently, my town has started a similar program called Herington Hearts that offers support to families in helping them build financial, emotional, and social resources as well as economic stability within the community. It has proven to be extremely beneficial thus far, and I believe a program similar to this would be beneficial for all rural communities that are desperate to decrease their poverty rate. These types of programs could offer a range of services to help communities in rural Kansas improve infrastructure, promote local businesses, preserve history, and enhance quality of life for those living in the farm towns of Kansas.

My vision for rural Kansas in ten years is one where people are proud to say they are from their tiny towns. We have many amazing communities in the area but I will always stand firm in my belief that rural towns are where families need to be raised. The values, morals, and work ethic that come from small town living makes admirable, hirable young adults. By 2030, I hope and pray for a thriving agricultural economy with happy residents and friendships that will last a lifetime. I strive for rural Kansas to have prospering businesses that fill the main streets and for poverty rates to be near zero. I am excited for the opportunity to raise my future children in a town similar to my own, so they can also experience the wonders of rural Kansas. I want them to know the feeling of being able to walk out the front door to hop on the school bus, and the pleasure of making real connections with their teachers, not just being a number in a database or a face in a crowd. These blessings don’t just come from everywhere… they do, however, come from rural Kansas — the best place to grow up.

Check back in Fall 2021 for details on the 2021-2022 Rural Voices Youth Contest.