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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.

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.

  • Quality of life/low crime rates
  • Sense of community
  • Rural landscape
  • Educational systems and opportunities
  • Central location
  • Entrepreneurship/entrepreneurial growth
  • Housing rehabilitation/development
  • Remote working
  • Youth engagement and retention
  • Business development and support
  • Housing (quality affordable housing)
  • Aging infrastructure/vacant buildings
  • Childcare availability
  • Loss of population
  • Aging workforce without replacements
  • 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

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.