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NCKCN Extending High Speed Internet Access in Rural Areas

Image of laptop computer and technology

Expansion of high speed wireless internet is underway in four North Central Kansas counties and will be completed by the end of December.

NCKCN, a broadband internet service network covering North Central Kansas, is extending its high-speed wireless internet to pockets of unserved and underserved broadband areas in four North Central Kansas counties. NCKCN is a 501(c)3 affiliate of the NCRPC.

“The need for high speed, high quality broadband internet affects the most critical aspects of our rural counties,” NCKCN System Administrator Todd Tuttle said. “Educational institutions, economic development and commerce, population growth and medical services all rely heavily on every resident or household having access to reliable internet services.”

The expansion project includes portions of Cloud, Jewell, Mitchell and Republic counties. It will increase internet connectivity for rural residents and businesses in areas where accessing quality high speed internet is difficult. NCKCN is building a hybrid fiber-wireless solution to provide customers with fast, affordable, low latency internet access with no data caps. To see a map of the newest available coverage areas, visit

NCKCN is collaborating with Cunningham Telephone & Cable (CTC) to extend broadband to these underserved areas by leveraging CTC’s neighboring fiber network. NCKCN and CTC are both local North Central Kansas companies that have a long history of providing internet solutions for the region.

The new service offers internet speeds of up to 50x25Mbps to residents and businesses. New customers in the expansion area who sign up for service will receive free installation and a wireless router. This project is an extension of NCKCN’s proven fixed wireless deployment, which it has offered since the early 2000s.

“The rise of COVID-19 has made it more apparent than ever that residents in our region need access to high speed internet,” Tuttle said. “We are pleased to expand our services to help meet that need.”

The expansion project is already underway and will be completed by the end of December.

This project is made possible, in part, through a Connectivity Emergency Response Grant, which was created to address the increased need for internet connectivity in Kansas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding was awarded as part of the state’s Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Economic Development and Connectivity grant application process made available from federal CARES Act funding.

To learn more or sign up for service, call 785-738-2218 or visit NCKCN.

This article appeared in the November 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.

Updated Kansas Wealth Transfer Study Shows Opportunity for Local Charitable Giving

Keep 5 in Kansas program logoA recently updated study on the transfer of wealth in Kansas presents an opportunity to communities of all sizes for local charitable giving.

The Center for Economic Development and Business Research, part of the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University, first completed a transfer of wealth study for Kansas in 2007 and updated it in 2012 and 2019. This study estimated future intergenerational wealth transfer for each county in Kansas. The transfer of wealth is an estimate of the household estate wealth transferred from the current generation to the next.

The most recent study indicates the following:

  • $67.7 billion will be transferred from one generation to the next in the state of Kansas from 2020 to 2025.
  • $3.4 billion or 5 percent could be preserved in community foundation endowments.
  • $1.2 trillion will be transferred in the state within the next 50 years (2020 to 2070).

The Keep 5 in Kansas initiative is one tool the Kansas Association of Community Foundations (KACF) uses to promote the importance of planned, charitable giving to local community foundation endowments. The concept is that by capturing a portion of the wealth being transferred — just 5% of an estate — will go a long way toward helping to ensure a community’s future. This can provide communities with a permanent source of endowed funding to support local projects such as economic development, local non-profits, schools, churches, public beautification and other community needs.

“Kansas community foundations are leading an effort to ensure the state’s transfer of wealth is preserved and invested in communities across Kansas,” Svetlana Hutfles, KACF Executive Director, said.

To learn more about the updated transfer of wealth study or Keep 5 in Kansas, visit the Kansas Association of Community Foundations.

This article appeared in the November 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.

Project Spotlight: City of Hope Improves Water Distribution System

Image of City of Hope water tower

A project to improve the water distribution system in the southern Dickinson County City of Hope was completed earlier this year. New waterlines were installed and the water tower was painted and repaired.

Having a safe and dependable water system is necessary for any community. The City of Hope recently completed a project to improve its water distribution system that will benefit current and future residents for many years.

Like many rural communities across Kansas, the City of Hope was faced with an aging water distribution system. The original system in Hope was made up of cast iron pipe that was installed in 1916. Improvements had been made over the years as needed. However, maintenance was becoming increasingly difficult and expensive due to the age and condition of the system. Line breaks were frequent and water loss high.

Recognizing the substantial cost involved with replacing the existing cast iron water mains, the city explored possibilities for funding assistance. In 2018, the city was awarded a $600,000 grant through the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). The CDBG program is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. The city also provided a substantial project match of nearly $1.2 million, which it secured through a USDA Rural Development loan.

The project included the installation of approximately 23,200 lineal feet of new PVC water mains, 5,600 lineal feet of water service lines, as well as new valves, fire hydrants, and an updated metering system. Water tower painting and upgrades were also completed.

NCRPC staff provided project planning assistance and administration. Other key partners involved with the project include general contractor J & K Construction LLC and project engineer BG Consultants, Inc.

Since project completion earlier this year, the city has experienced lower water loss and fewer issues. “It has been a positive change and it was way overdue,” Mayor Larry Ryff said. “The community seems very thankful and happy that there has been less interruptions with the new system.”

Ryff has advice for other communities considering options for their own water improvement projects. “You definitely need determination and patience with the process,” Ryff said. “Infrastructure is a very important component to any community.”

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

There are many great things happening in North Central Kansas. The Project Spotlight series features projects around the region to share ways communities have solved challenges. To view more Project Spotlights, visit

This article appeared in the November 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.

Loan Fund Available to Help North Central Kansas Businesses

NCK Business Relief Loan Program LogoA new NCK Business Relief Loan Program is now available to assist North Central Kansas businesses adversely impacted by COVID-19.

The U.S. Department of Commerce through the Economic Development Administration (EDA) will provide $1.1 million of funds, which will be administered by the North Central Regional Planning Commission.

The new program provides loans on favorable terms to businesses for response and recovery needs due to the COVID-19 crisis. For-profit businesses 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. 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.

Funding for the new program comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. To qualify for the 2020 EDA funding, North Central Regional Planning Commission needed to have a history of operating a successful fund, which it met as a result of receiving similar EDA loan funding in 1990. The original fund began with $667,000 and has grown to nearly $1 million today.

The loan fund will become a permanent tool to assist businesses in North Central Kansas and will not be COVID-specific in the future.

“The NCK Business Relief Loan Program will help provide support to businesses still being impacted by the pandemic,” NCRPC Business Finance Director Debra Peters said. “In addition, our region will benefit from this fund for many years.”

To learn more, contact Debra Peters at 785-738-2218 or visit the the NCK Business Relief Loan Program page.

This article appeared in the November 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.

New Leadership Training Scholarship Announced

image of leadership graphicCultivating leadership is an important part of ensuring a strong future in North Central Kansas.

A newly created leadership scholarship will make it possible for NCRPC to sponsor an individual each year to attend the “Your Leadership Edge” training program offered by the Kansas Leadership Center, Wichita.

The NCRPC Executive Board of Directors officially created the McKinney Leadership Scholarship in April 2020. It is named in honor of Doug McKinney, who was NCRPC Executive Director for 12 years and passionate about leadership during his 34-year tenure with the organization. McKinney retired as executive director in May.

The scholarship will be awarded to an individual living and/or working in the NCRPC 12-county service area who has shown commitment to improving their community or work place. Preference will be given to those serving local government or non-profits and those who do not have the option of being sponsored by their employer.

“We are thrilled that the board created this opportunity in Doug’s honor,” NCRPC Executive Director Emily Benedick said. “This will allow us to help support those who are pushing to better their communities and the region.”

To learn more or to apply, visit our leadership scholarship page. The deadline is November 2, 2020.

This article appeared in the September 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.

Improving Energy Efficiency

October marks Energy Action Month, Weatherization Day
image of multi-family apartment complex

Weatherization assistance improvements at this multi-family apartment complex in Ness City increased comfort and energy efficiency for its tenants. (Courtesy Photo)

Residents living in an apartment complex in Ness City have enjoyed increased comfort and energy efficiency thanks to improvements made possible through the Weatherization Assistance Program.

At the time of the work, many of the units in the Wheatview Apartment Complex were rented to elderly tenants. The 30-unit complex has four floors and was built in 1978. This multi-family complex is one of the largest weatherization projects the NCRPC has administered in its 41-years of providing weatherization assistance.

The program allowed for the installation of air sealing measures, energy efficient refrigerators, ventilation fans, carbon monoxide detectors, as well as LED light bulbs throughout the apartments. In addition, the old and leaky Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) units were replaced or repaired as needed. The apartment complex made additional upgrades in the common areas including a new heat pump and LED lighting.

Weatherization helps reduce energy costs for households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes. Through weatherization improvements and upgrades, households save on average $283 or more every year. The Weatherization Assistance Program is offered at no charge to income-eligible families. The NCRPC administers the program for 41 Kansas counties.

October marks Energy Action Month and October 30 is recognized as Weatherization Day across the nation each year. For ways to save energy, visit the Energy Star website.

To apply for weatherization assistance, visit our Weatherization page.

This article appeared in the September 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.

Rural Reflections

By Emily Reno

Does rural to urban migration mean the end of small towns? Not necessarily, says former intern
image of Emily Reno

Emily Reno was a Dane Hansen Community Intern at the NCRPC in 2018. She primarily worked with the NCK Food Council.

In the summer of 2018, I had the privilege to serve as North Central Regional Planning Commission’s summer intern. At the end of the summer I wrote about the tremendous impact that the internship had on me – not only of my view of how happiness could be achieved in a small town, but how it was one of the only times in my life where I didn’t have the ‘fear of missing out’ for not being in some exotic location instead.

Many people I met were hopeful that I would move to North Central Kansas permanently after my internship, but my path had already been set on the big city – Minneapolis, pop. 425,403 – to complete my Master of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Minnesota. The culture shock was real. So was the overwhelming anxiety and stress from working three part-time jobs and full-time course load. I will never forget the first day I drove out of the city – four months after moving there – and bursting into tears seeing the horizon. Miles and miles of cornfields and the open sky were apparently a much greater part of my sense of belonging than I realized.

image of Lida Farm stand in Minnesota

Fresh produce from early in the season at the Lida Farm stand in Minnesota, which operates on the honor system. (Courtesy Photo)

It was at that moment that I knew my interest and passion for working in rural communities around issues of food and agriculture wasn’t just a pipe dream. The time I spent working in North Central Kansas was a pivotal moment in the trajectory of my career endeavors. I sought out part-time work through research with farmers in Greater Minnesota while going to school, and worked for a start-up that bridges the urban-rural divide by empowering rural constituents to develop a vision of a sustainable future for themselves. The experiences have taught me that regardless of our geographic biases, we are all just people, and that we deserve to live a dignified life.

After graduating in May of this year, I packed up my bags to become an apprentice at Lida Farm, where we grow and sell vegetables on five acres through CSA shares. I live fifteen minutes outside of Pelican Rapids, the nearest town, pop. 2500, and I could not be happier. I have found a new home here, but despite the fact that I no longer live in Kansas, I think this message is important to share: A young person’s decision to move to or attend school in an urban setting does not preclude them from choosing to return, or to move to a rural community elsewhere. If you feel as though you’ve just lost your child or a loved one to the ‘big city,’ I urge you to not lose hope. There are many of us out there longing to return, and many more of us who will dedicate their lives to making their small town the best it can be. I know I will.

This article appeared in the September 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.


High School Seniors Invited to Compete for Cash Prizes

Rural Voices Youth contest logo and imageHigh school seniors in North Central Kansas are invited to compete for a chance to win $850 by submitting a written essay or short video in the 2020-2021 Rural Voices Youth Contest.

Entries should reflect this year’s theme — “Rural Kansas…Tomorrow’s Possibilities.” The top two entries will receive a cash award of $850 and those students will be recognized with the John R. Cyr Rural Voices Award. The award is named in honor of Cyr who served for 22 years as NCRPC Executive Director. Any senior in high school who lives in or attends a school in the 12-county NCRPC service area is eligible to enter the contest.

The deadline to submit an entry is December 1, 2020. Visit the contest page to learn more.

This article appeared in the September 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.

COVID-19 Recovery

Cities, counties working to support businesses and meet local recovery needs

As the region continues to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, cities and counties have been busy responding to their local community needs and seeking resources to support their residents and businesses.

image of dollar sign and virus

A total of 16 cities and counties in North Central Kansas were awarded funds from the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Response Supplement (CDBG-CV) program in June and July. Grants were available in two categories — Economic Development and Meal Programs. All awards in North Central Kansas are for Economic Development with two cities also receiving Meal Program grant funding. The Economic Development grants provide communities with funding to help local businesses retain jobs for low-to-moderate income people by covering working capital expenses such as inventory, wages and utilities. The CDBG-CV awards are part of the state’s allocation from the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Counties also received SPARK funding through the state’s CARES Act allocation. The State of Kansas implemented a SPARK team (Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas) to help oversee the distribution of these relief funds for COVID response and recovery efforts. Counties were allocated SPARK funds based on a formula that takes into account population, virus impacts and unemployment rates.

NCRPC staff are working with some of the region’s cities and counties to provide administration assistance for both funding programs.

Resources continue to change rapidly. For current information on COVID-19 resources available in the region, visit our resources page. For state information, visit the Kansas COVID-19 Response and Recovery page.

This article appeared in the September 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.

Business Support Available for North Central Kansas Manufacturers, Entrepreneurs

Applications for the Innovation Stimulus Program are now being accepted

Image of Innovation Stimulus Program FlyerNorth Central Kansas manufacturers and entrepreneurs that have been negatively impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible to apply for free services as part of a new Innovation Stimulus Program.

The program is a partnership between the Technology Development Institute, or TDI, at Kansas State University and the North Central Regional Planning Commission, or NCRPC, based in Beloit. The Innovation Stimulus Program provides no cost commercialization and engineering services to projects that will have a positive economic impact in the region.

“Technology Development Institute has the understanding, technical capacity, and expertise to assist our region’s manufacturers as they seek to pivot in response to COVID-19 impacts,” NCRPC Executive Director Emily Benedick said. “We are excited about this partnership.”

Eligible project examples for the Innovation Stimulus Program include design, engineering or prototyping services, intellectual property research, customer and/or market research, marketing assistance, and other technical support as needed.

Applications are now being accepted at and will be available until all funding has been allocated. The maximum amount of service awarded to any one project is $20,000 and there is no minimum amount.

Funding for the new program is made possible through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s CARES program. Technology Development Institute is a unit in the College of Engineering at Kansas State University and is designated as a U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center. The North Central Regional Planning Commission is designated as an Economic Development District by U.S. Economic Development Administration for a 12-county region in North Central Kansas.

The K-State Technology Development Institute, a U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration University Center, provides a broad range of engineering and business development services to both private industry and university researchers to advance the commercial readiness of new products or technologies. Additional information is available at

The NCRPC is committed to advancing rural Kansas through comprehensive planning and development services. Its primary service area includes 12 counties and 83 cities in North Central Kansas. Additional information is available at


This article appeared in the September 2020 NCRPC Newsletter.