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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.