Blog Archives

Recovery and Resiliency in NCK

Plan Gives Insight Into Building Future Capacity in the Region

Earlier this year the NCRPC hosted round table discussions with stakeholders in its 12-county service area to determine ongoing impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discussions focused on the concept of resiliency. What would limit the region’s ability to bounce back from hardships? What would position the region for future success? What specific aspects of the region are vulnerable? In addition, participants were asked what they felt were the biggest keys to economic development of the region. Economic resilience defined for purposes of the discussions was the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. The description also included an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.

Contracted consultant Deb Ohlde facilitated these discussions and compiled the data into the North Central Kansas Pandemic Recovery and Resiliency Plan. It contains a look at the diverse effects of the COVID pandemic and ideas for building future resiliency in the region. Development of this plan was made possible, in part, through the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant awarded to the NCRPC.

At the conclusion of the discussions, 63 individuals were interviewed who lived or worked throughout the entire 12-county region. Multiple sectors of the economy were represented. The NCRPC also conducted a regional survey during a similar timeframe to collect information on resiliency and the impacts of COVID-19.

Survey responses and discussion feedback both documented concerns in three primary areas:

  • Housing
  • Childcare
  • Workforce

Round table discussions bought to light several priority projects related to recovery including the need for government employees to have flexible and up-to-date tools to deliver service effectively in a crisis; daycare is critical to growing the workforce and the economy; and quality, affordable housing is lacking overall. Discussions also highlighted future potential challenges including managing and adequately serving immigrants and mental health concerns. Preparing for these will play an important role in building a more resilient region overall.

View the full NCK Pandemic Recovery and Resiliency Plan.

This article appeared in the November 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

Reducing Energy Costs

Weatherization Assistance Client Sees Drop in Utility Usage

At the age of 94, Delora wanted one thing: to leave a decent home to her children when she passed away. Improvements made to her home through the Weatherization Assistance Program may help make that possible.

Previously, the client was worried about flooding in the basement each time it rained and how drafty the original windows had become. Thanks to the Weatherization Assistance Program, the home received 1,148 sq ft of attic insulation, 2,078 sq ft of wall insulation, 558 sq ft of bandjoist and foundation insulation, and vapor barrier. The foundation cracks were repaired, a missing chunk of concrete was filled in, and her gutters were cleaned out, all causes of the basement flooding issue. A large amount of infiltration and air sealing was also provided.

Though she has not seen a large decrease in her electric bill, the gas bill has decreased and through the winter months she did not have to set her thermostat as high as in the past. Of the inspector and the contracting crew, she said “They were all good workers, and didn’t stop until the job was done!”

Last month marked Energy Efficiency Month and October 30th was recognized as Weatherization Day across the nation. Weatherization helps reduce energy costs for households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes. Eligibility for the program is based solely on income.

The NCRPC administers the program for 41 Kansas counties. Learn more about the Weatherization Assistance Program and how to apply.

This article appeared in the November 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

Celebrating Community

Photos Highlight Pride, Commitment to Improving Quality of Life

In the September 2021 newsletter, we put out a call for photos of community events that have occurred since 2019 such as 150th celebrations, annual festivals, and more – and our readers answered!

Vision 5 of the North Central Kansas Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy is “Exceptional Quality of Place.” Community gatherings often provide unique experiences that contribute to quality of life in the region. Whether it is beginning a new tradition or celebrating 150 years of history, we salute the communities and volunteers who help make these events happen. Thank you to all who submitted photos. Enjoy a look at just a handful of the events that have taken place over the last two years.

This feature appeared in the November 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

The Linn Picnic demolition derby on July 11, 2020 was captured by drone. The picnic is an annual summer event in Linn, Kansas, and includes the derby, kids’ games, and a number of other events. (Photo by Eli Thalmann, submitted by Dan Thalmann)


Several communities in the region have celebrated 150 years. In time for its celebration in June 2021, volunteers in the City of Burr Oak, Kansas, organized the creation of 150 sunflowers out of old farming equipment and scrap metal. (Photo submitted by Amy Reed)

Rock the Park is an annual fun festival at Markley Grove Park in Minneapolis, Kansas. The festival offers live music, a cornhole tournament, car show, kid’s activities, and food and shopping vendors and more. (Photo submitted by Kim Bird)

The City of Osborne’s 150th celebration took place over Memorial weekend 2021. Pictured is Greg Victors, the Wichita War Dancer. While Osborne County is not in the primary 12-county service area, it is included in the Weatherization Assistance Program and the North Central Kansas Public Health Initiative administered by the NCRPC. (Photo submitted by Stacey Jackson)

Project Spotlight: Historic Mitchell County Courthouse Undergoes Restoration

Mitchell County utilized the State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program for an exterior restoration project on its courthouse this year. (Photo courtesy of Doug McKinney)

Construction of the Mitchell County Courthouse was completed in 1901 at a cost of $38,310. An exterior restoration project to repair and restore mortar joints completed in July 2021 came in at a cost of just over $147,000.

“Some people have lived in the county all their lives and do not remember a cleaning as thorough as what was recently done,” Tom Claussen, Chair of the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners, said. “I guess you could say it was due — but that is not bad for 100-plus years.”

Claussen took an active interest in the restoration of the county courthouse when he first took office in 2010. Between his commissioner duties and his role on the K-State Research and Extension Post Rock District board at the time, he estimates he was walking into the courthouse 2 to 3 days a week. Over time, he noticed issues with the mortar. “You could stick your hand in cracks in some places and it was pretty unsightly when you got closer to the building,” Claussen said.

The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners applied twice for grant funding through the Kansas Historical Society Heritage Trust Fund Program and were turned down both times. Ultimately, the county used the State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program instead.

The Kansas State Tax Credit is equal to 25 percent of qualifying expenses incurred during a qualified project on a qualified building. The Mitchell County Courthouse was first listed on the National Register of Historical Places on November 23, 1977, making it a qualified historic structure for the program. Stone work was the chief aspect of the improvement effort. All work was carefully done to preserve the history of the building including using period-correct mortar mix and keeping with the original trowel design.

Mid-Continental Restoration Co., Inc. based out of Fort Scott, Kansas, received the bid to do the rehabilitation work. NCRPC staff provided assistance with the project application and administration.

“The contractors were wonderful people to work with and they did a great job,” Claussen said. “Working with NCRPC helped make the process a lot easier too.”

The county now has tax credits to place. For non-profit organizations, local governments, and other property owners that do not have a Kansas state income tax liability, credits may be transferred or sold to other taxpayers.

“We have had a lot of positive comments about the project,” Claussen said. “People are proud of their courthouse wherever they are from because that is where they go to conduct business. We are especially proud of our courthouse and the work that was done.”

Other improvements separate from this project have been made to the courthouse over a period of several years. Within the last 10 years the county has replaced the windows, fixed the clock on the courthouse tower, lined the gutters to keep them functional, and added split duct heating and cooling systems allowing the removal of window units. A damaging hail storm in 2015 made it necessary to replace the roof of the courthouse. Repaving the parking lot is on the radar for a future improvement project.

Learn more about the State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program.

This article appeared in the November 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

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


Minneapolis Dental Practice Expands Lab Service

NCK Business Relief Loan Program Helps Business Pivot Operations

All Smiles Dental Care located in downtown Minneapolis, Kansas, has added equipment and expanded its lab capabilities. (Courtesy Photo)

When All Smiles Dental Care, LC was forced to close for 6 weeks in Spring 2020 due to COVID-19, Dr. Ashley Swisher had time to focus on a plan to expand lab services for her practice.

Swisher’s downtown Minneapolis, Kansas, practice opened in 2010. Innovation has been a priority from the beginning. Pivoting as a result of the pandemic was no exception. The business added a milling machine this year that allows in-office production of crowns, appliances and models, and dentures. The equipment uses digital imaging for fast and efficient patient treatment.

The practice now enjoys a quicker turnaround of some of its lab work. It can also provide lab services to other practices in the area, providing an additional revenue stream for the business. The expanded new lab is four times the size of the former lab. “We are working toward being able to do all lab services in-house to expedite wait times for customer prostheses,” Dr. Ashley Swisher said.

The new equipment and related expansion of lab services was made possible, in part, through assistance from the NCK Business Relief Loan Program that was funded by the EDA CARES Act RLF 2020. Other sources of funds for this project include investment by the owner and Citizens State Bank & Trust Co of Minneapolis.

The practice has 14 full-time employees. One new position was added as a result of the revolving loan fund project to expand lab services and likely another will be added within the next year.

Learn more about NCRPC Business Finance services and All Smiles Dental Care, LC.

This article appeared in the November 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

Population Change in NCK: A Matter of Perspective

Reactions to August Census Bureau Release of Some 2020 Census Data

By Emily Benedick, Executive Director

Kansas map highlighting the North Central Kansas 12-county NCRPC service areaIn nearly every conversation regarding the biggest threats to North Central Kansas, “population loss” is at or near the top of the list. The recent survey NCRPC completed about the region’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats provided no exception with “population loss” being identified as the #2 threat to North Central Kansas.

This ongoing conversation about population loss has left many of us on the edge of our seats waiting for the updated census populations numbers to hit our inboxes. Some cautiously optimistic, some holding their breath, it has been difficult to predict if the numbers in North Central Kansas would be favorable or disheartening. In August, these census numbers were finally released. Overall, I have gotten the impression that most of us do not know what to think about the results.

Before I explain my hesitation to take these updated census numbers and run with them as fact, I want to share a snapshot of what we saw within our 12-county service area. On the county level, all 12 counties faced population loss. Since 2010, the total population loss is -4.10% or 5,729 people in the region. The highest percentage of population loss was seen in Lincoln County and the lowest percentage of population loss was seen in Marshall County. On a city level, 15 cities saw population growth:

  • Wilson – Ellsworth County
  • Formoso – Jewell County
  • Randall – Jewell County
  • Sylvan Grove – Lincoln County
  • Frankfort – Marshall County
  • Marysville – Marshall County
  • Scottsville – Mitchell County
  • Belleville – Republic County
  • Courtland – Republic County
  • Assaria – Saline County
  • Barnes – Washington County
  • Greenleaf – Washington County
  • Haddam – Washington County
  • Hanover – Washington County
  • Palmer – Washington County

Sharing the average percentage of population loss among our cities is deceiving as well. Let me explain. A population of 100 who only loses 5 people shows a change of -5.0%; while a larger city of 3,500 loses 150 people but it also only amounts to a -5.0% loss. That being said, across the region, the average population loss in our cities was -8.90%.

When skimming census numbers on a computer screen, there is a lot of negative. There is no denying that official census population loss does have negative impacts on our cities and counties. However, I feel extremely optimistic for rural Kansas based on what many of our cities and counties have experienced since the pandemic.

In 2019, our region had hundreds, maybe even a thousand, homes on the market. Today, most of our cities have less than a dozen homes for sale with many having no open housing options available. Housing availability has taken the forefront as one of the biggest needs in our region. Similarly, we see an extreme shortage of childcare availability. While some factors, such as retirements and state regulations have contributed to this burden, the need for childcare still indicates that young people are growing their families or moving to town. Both of these needs within our region can take a positive spin as definite indicators of population growth! I think it worth noting here that while Washington County saw an overall population loss of -4.64%, 5 of its 9 cities saw population growth!

So, while on paper the population numbers in North Central Kansas may be disheartening, I hope the shift in our focus of overall needs, as well as the growth many have experienced firsthand within our cities over the last 12 months will keep rural Kansas optimistic about our future! We cannot get bogged down and consistently focus on population loss. We must work together to focus on what makes our populations grow and nurture those elements of community that make rural Kansas great! We must look at what is actually happening within our communities and use those experiences to determine success.

This article appeared in the September 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

Project Spotlight: Disaster Training Exercise

Award from North Central Kansas Rural Development Initiative Helped Document Training

By Lacey Miller, Regional Public Health Preparedness Coordinator

The NCK Technical College Nursing Program hosted NCKTC Disaster Day in Beloit on April 29. The event provided an opportunity for leadership growth and training in North Central Kansas. The North Central Kansas Rural Development Initiative, administered by the NCRPC, provided a financial contribution in support of videography services for the event. Photo courtesy of Chandra Feldman, Marketing Director, NCK Tech.

On April 29, 2021, an explosion exercise occurred at the North Central Kansas Technical College’s (NCK Tech) Welding Department. A well-designed “Disaster Day” exercise was put on by the Nursing Department of NCK Tech and was pulled off with the collaboration of numerous partners.

Two moulage artists gave of their time to make the victims have life like injuries such as third-degree burns, impaled objects and a compound clavicle fracture. Michell County Hospital Health Systems staff volunteered and helped in the mock emergency room. An air ambulance from Life Star dispatched from Junction City came and picked up one victim for simulation purposes. Beloit Fire Department shared their knowledge and also lent their smoke machines for replication in the event. Mitchell County EMS responded lights and sirens and also assisted in teaching the NCK Tech Practical Nursing Program students about triage and transport. Mitchell County Emergency Management and Salina Regional Health Center’s Preparedness Coordinator helped with setup and coordination of the day’s events. The City of Beloit provided and set up street barricades and the Mitchell County Sherriff’s Department was there to provide assistance if needed. The Mitchell County Health Department Administrator, the Lincoln County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, and the North Central Kansas Regional Public Health Coordinator evaluated the exercise. Eberle Studios filmed and produced a professional video of the exercise.

A grant award from the North Central Kansas Rural Development Initiative helped fund the videography. The NCRPC and its affiliate, North Central Kansas Community Network Co. (NCKCN), manage the NCK Rural Development Initiative Program.

“This exercise offered an excellent opportunity for leadership growth and training in the North Central region,” NCRPC Executive Director Emily Benedick said. “We recognized the value of this event and in having a professional videographer document it to help promote future emergency preparedness and disaster management training efforts throughout North Central Kansas.”

According to NCK Tech Nursing Instructor Samantha Miller, the training built on the leadership skills of students. “During the training, our students were pushed beyond their comfort zones and forced to critically think and communicate in a high-stress environment to ensure their patients received the best possible care,” Miller said. “Prior to the start of the event, the students received a quick briefing but otherwise were left to take the initiative and make decisions from a leadership perspective. It was amazing to watch them step up and execute a successful drill. Members from our graduating class have already provided feedback on how this experience has helped them in their current practice only months after graduation.”

View the video.

Learn more about the NCK Rural Development Initiative.

This article appeared in the September 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

Social Media Marketing Tips

Free Training Gave Students Tools for Using Social Media

By Laura Leite, Training Coordinator

Have you heard the buzz about social media marketing but don’t know where to start? Do you think it is too complicated or that you need a teenager to help?

Jenny Russell of JenRus Freelance put her students at ease and gave them the tools to branch out into the cost effective and persuasive marketing tool of social media.

Some of the questions that you need to ask yourself as you dive into the world of social media are: What is your goal? Who is your audience? Where are they viewing?

Research shows demographic preferences for media as follows:

  • Men – Twitter and text
  • Women – Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram
  • Older adults – Newsletter and email
  • Younger adults/teens – Instagram, Comment Sold app, Venmo, text and Farm to Table apps
  • Families – Pinterest and Websites

Once you identify your audience and their social media preferences, then it is time to build your social media. Make sure to tell a story and don’t just sell on your posts.

What stories? Some of the ideas include sharing personal stories, something funny that just happened, helpful hints and recipes, educating your audience, praise other’s successes, share stories from complementary businesses and talking about your town.

It is always helpful to have good pictures with good lighting. There are free editing tools available online at sites such as Canva or your phone and Instagram have filters that you can use.

Live videos and blogs are also good for social media. Just make sure that you highlight your unique positioning statement, the more content the better. Do not post more than three times per day while making sure to provide something valuable to your followers.

All this information and more was shared during the Social Media Marketing class from JenRus Freelance in August. This course and many more are provided free of charge through a grant awarded to the NCRPC.

To sign up for future courses, visit the training page.

This article appeared in the September 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

Free Training Now Available

Classes Scheduled for Area Residents, Businesses, Nonprofits

image advertising free training now availableRegistrations are now being accepted for residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations located in North Central Kansas to attend free training covering a variety of topics.

More than 40 courses are currently scheduled in the categories of business and nonprofit basics, business succession planning, developing an online presence, and nonprofit board development and retention. Training specific to grocery stores will be available soon. Many of the courses will be delivered online via Zoom, but some will be in person.

The training has been 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 Economic Development Administration’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant awarded to the NCRPC. Training will go through June 2022 and is free, but advance registration is required. To view the full calendar and to register, visit We are continuing to fine tune offerings, so check back often or complete the email form at the bottom of that web page to be notified when new courses are added.

We are always looking for ways to reach a wider audience with this training to have the greatest benefit in the region. If you would like a flyer or additional materials to share with a specific group or have any questions, please email Lori Thielen at

This article appeared in the September 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

Loan Funds Provide Relief to NCK Businesses

NCK Business Relief Loan Program logo

Program Assists 16 Businesses in the Region

A total of 16 businesses located in North Central Kansas received assistance through the NCK Business Relief Loan Program.

The program was made available in November 2020 to assist North Central Kansas businesses adversely impacted by COVID-19. It was made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) through the CARES Act. The NCRPC administered the NCK Business Relief Loan Program. All 16 loans were closed by the end of July 2021.

“Demand for the program was strong,” NCRPC Business Finance Director Debra Peters said. “We were glad to be able to make this program available quickly during what has been a very challenging time for businesses. We appreciate our stakeholders who helped us get the word out to businesses needing assistance.”

The program has disbursed $1,014,000 in loan capital to 16 businesses in the region including 5 manufacturers, 3 retailers and 8 service-type businesses. Other project funding sources have contributed another nearly $2.5 million. The businesses that were assisted plan to retain 109 full-time jobs. In addition, 3 businesses plan to pivot operations as a result of the pandemic and create 5 new full-time jobs. Although funds for this program are currently exhausted, as loan funds are repaid, recaptured funds will be available to re-lend to for-profit businesses in the NCRPC 12-county service area.

“This program was an overall positive for the region really on two levels,” Peters said. “It provided support to businesses that were impacted by the pandemic and it also becomes a permanent financing tool to assist future businesses in North Central Kansas.”

Learn more about the NCRPC Business Finance Program.

This article appeared in the July 2021 NCRPC Newsletter. Updated on August 19, 2021.