Blog Archives

Banquet Celebrates Past, Looks to Future

image of Doug Griffiths during the keynote address at the NCRPC 50th Anniversary Banquet

Keynote speaker Doug Griffiths shared his perspective on community challenges and successes.

NCRPC capped off the year with a 50th Anniversary Banquet on November 10 in Beloit.

Approximately 120 people from throughout the region attended the event, which was also hosted on behalf of affiliate North Central Kansas Community Network, Co. (NCKCN).

One of the evening’s highlights was the keynote address by Doug Griffiths, community strategist and author of two best-selling editions of “13 Ways to Kill Your Community.” In his presentation, he outlined seven of the 13 ways in which he said communities may undermine their success — sometimes without even knowing it.

  • Forget the water – quality and quantity
  • Don’t attract businesses
  • Don’t engage youth
  • Deceive yourself (Don’t assess your community’s need or values)
  • Live in the past
  • Don’t cooperate
  • Don’t take responsibility

He shared brief anecdotes and lessons learned through his work advising and consulting with communities. Regarding engaging youth, he shared that the nature of youth is to go off and explore. The goal is not to keep them from doing that, but to give them a reason to want to return.

“We have to stop being so negative about our communities,” Griffiths said. “We also need real engagement. It is not a matter of how you’re going to be effective but how you’re going to stay relevant.”

Griffiths closed by challenging the audience when it comes to taking responsibility. “If we want a solution, we have to go back to community building and helping each other,” Griffiths said.

NCRPC Executive Board Chair Tom Claussen (left) presented John Cyr with the inaugural NCRPC Lifetime Public Service Award.

Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the inaugural Lifetime Public Service Award to John Cyr. He dedicated his career to the region, much of which was spent as NCRPC Executive Director, and he is passionate about rural development and North Central Kansas. The NCRPC Executive Board plans to present an award annually to an individual, group or organization that has been distinguished by contributions to communities in the region over many years.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

On-the-Job Training Program Provides Opportunity for Workers and Employers

Employers may be eligible for reimbursement to help cover job training costs of candidates meeting certain criteria.

On-the-Job Training offered through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) offers up to a maximum of $3,000 per year for two years to compensate employers for the cost associated with training and loss of production for newly hired employees.

Adults meeting certain priority categories such as veteran status, low income, or basic skills deficiencies may qualify for training assistance. Programs are also available for dislocated workers and youth ages 16-24 who are not attending school.

Potential examples of occupational skills training for adults may include on-the-job training for city water operators or local businesses training new hires in a skilled profession.

“I feel like On-the-Job Training is the best type of training because it is generally hands on, very company specific, and an earn and learn model that works,” said Tucky Allen, Business Services Director with Kansas WorkforceONE. “The end goal is a career/good job for participants.”

To learn more about WIOA On-the-Job Training and to determine eligibility, contact Tucky Allen at Kansas WorkforceONE at 316-303-2906 or by email at

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Weatherization Assistance Program Helps Decrease Utility Costs for Client

“Lifesaving.” That was the single word a weatherization client recently used to describe the help received through the Weatherization Assistance Program. The NCRPC administers the program for 41 Kansas counties.

Edward’s central Kansas home had a 36-year-old rusted out furnace that needed to be replaced. His monthly budget was tight after he was forced to retire early due to health issues. When his electric bill became overwhelming, Edward began to seek assistance and applied for the Weatherization Assistance Program.

Weatherization helps reduce energy costs for households by improving the efficiency, health, and safety of their homes. Through the program, a new energy efficient furnace was installed in Edward’s home. Other improvements included the addition of 1,384 square feet of attic insulation, 1,058 square feet of sidewall insulation, and other small measures that addressed health and safety concerns.

“Since the work has been completed, the house feels different,” Edward said. “It is warmer, and a transformation in overall comfort has been recognized.”

His electric bill immediately decreased by more than $40 each month and he is expecting to see bigger savings as the seasons change.

Eligibility for the Weatherization Assistance Program is based solely on income. To view maximum income guidelines or learn more, visit the NCRPC Weatherization page.

Please note that due to program demand, there currently is a wait list for services.

Energy Saving Tips

Winter weather is here! According to the U.S. Department of Energy, home heating uses more energy and costs more than any other system in your home. For energy saving tips, go to the Office of Energy Saver.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Entries Now Being Accepted for Rural Voices Youth Contest

image of money with graduation capHigh school seniors in North Central Kansas are invited to compete for a chance to win $1,000 by submitting an essay or short video in the 2022-2023 Rural Voices Youth Contest. Entries should be reflective of this year’s contest theme, which is “Rural Kansas…Working Together.”

The NCRPC has sponsored the contest annually since 2006 and has awarded more than $27,000 to high school seniors from around the region. Students submitting the top two entries will each receive a cash award of $1,000. The winning entries will also be published on the NCRPC website.

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 — including the counties of Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Marshall, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, Saline and Washington. The deadline to submit an entry is February 1, 2023.

Additional information and registration details are available at the contest page.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Salina Business Owner Expands Local Brewery Options

image of Blue Skye Brewery and Eats, LLC, Salina, KS

Blue Skye Brewery and Eats, LLC, is located at 116 N. Santa Fe Avenue, Salina, Kansas. (Courtesy Photo)

Instead of the proverbial phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” one Salina business focused on making ale when faced with challenges. When the coronavirus pandemic impacted Blue Skye Brewery and Eats, LLC with temporary business closure and revenue decline, co-owner Monte Shadwick got creative.

“We were very fortunate to have been in business for 7 years when the pandemic hit and were in a good financial position to weather the storm. However, to keep our team employed and working, we needed to create an income stream from other sales,” Shadwick said.

In Fall 2020, the business expanded its wholesale line by the keg and began offering it to other local restaurant/bars to meet the trend of having a local craft beer on tap. They also created a new revenue source by adding a small canning machine. The new machine makes it possible for Blue Skye Brewery to sell beer in recyclable 32-ounce cans, which allows customers to mix and match a variety pack and take it to go. The business has a large list of customer favorites that it brews in house including Jalapeno Ale and seasonal varieties such as Watermelon Crawl.

A new crowler machine and brewing equipment made it possible for the business to expand sales through to-go orders and delivery to other area restaurants and pubs. (Courtesy Photo)

The project to pivot operations and purchase brewery equipment to meet the changing demands was made possible 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 First Bank Kansas. As a result of the project, another brewer was hired, allowing the business to retain 14 and create 1 full-time equivalent positions, including the owner.

For more information about the NCRPC Business Finance program, contact Debra Peters at 785-738-2218 or visit the NCRPC Business Finance services page. To learn more about Blue Skye Brewery and Eats, LLC, find them on Facebook.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Mural Movement Grows in Clay Center

What began as a local Rotary project to install one mural in 2020 quickly became an entire movement in one North Central Kansas community.

A Mural Movement of Clay Center just saw the completion of its 25th mural in July 2022. Clay Center resident and Community Bank President Brett Hubka was president of the Rotary Club when the project began.

A Mural Movement of Clay Center committee members are shown with the latest mural. Pictured left to right are Dave Borgerding, Brett Hubka, Tracy Lebo, Artists Christian & Jessica Stanley, Michelle Gillard, Maria Pfizenmaier, Shannon Stark, and Jacob Lohrmeyer. (Courtesy Photo)

“Each Rotary Club president gets to do a project during their presidential year. It could be as simple as picking up trash to as complex as an entire playground. A mural was actually not my first idea,” Hubka said. “K-State Architecture, Planning and Design students had come at some point to do some plans for the downtown and a mural was included in those plans. For whatever reason it never got done. I presented the idea to the club for a mural and just for fun in my PowerPoint included other buildings/locations where murals could go.”

When the idea took off, Brett reached out to six others in the community with an interest in growing the movement. That seven-person mural committee continues today.

Murals primarily are located in Clay Center, but murals have also been installed in nearby Longford and Green and plans are underway for a mural in Morganville.

While the movement has received some grant funding through the District Rotary and the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, Hubka estimates 90 percent of the funding has come from local individuals, businesses and alumni. To date they have received about $250,000 and donations from 23 different states.

“We’ve definitely reached a different phase in the project,” Hubka said. “We are shifting to a greater focus on promotion instead of installing more murals.”

Hubka offers advice for communities considering a major project of their own. “For any community project, teaming up with a civic organization is important,” Hubka said. “For us two other big keys to success were a great committee and a generous community. We could not do this without either one.”

To view an interactive map of all the murals or to learn more, visit a Mural Movement Experience.

Congratulations to the following organizations located in North Central Kansas that were recently awarded funding through the Office of Rural Prosperity’s Rural Mural and Public Art grant program:

  • Clay Center Community Improvement Foundation
  • Community Foundation of Dickinson County, Inc.
  • Ellsworth County Economic Development Corporation
  • Mitchell County Strong, Inc.
  • Wilson Tourism Hub, Inc.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Staff Introductions, Transitions Announced

We are pleased to announce the hiring of two new employees and other recent staff transitions.

NCRPC welcomed new staff and announced recent staff transitions. Pictured from left to right at top are Deb Ohlde and Bri Beck and below are Chelsea Smith and Kendra Ryser.

Deb Ohlde returned to the NCPRC in July as Strategic Development Advisor. She brings many years of experience in strategic planning, small group facilitation as well as proposal writing/project management in the public and non-profit sectors. Deb first joined the NCRPC in 1994 and served in a variety of roles culminating in Assistant Director, through 2016. She stayed connected to community development while operating her own consulting company, NEW Heartland Freelance. Most recently she was Director of Grower Services for Kansas Corn before rejoining the NCRPC. Deb is a graduate of Kansas State University with a BS in Agricultural Economics and a Master’s in Public Administration. She has completed the Economic Development Finance Professional certification through the National Development Council and the Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas. She is a certified Ice House Facilitator. While Deb will work throughout the region as needed, her primary counties will be Marshall, Washington, Republic, Jewell, Cloud and Clay.

Chelsea Smith began work in September as Administrative Assistant. In this role she provides support to many of the NCRPC programs and handles accounts receivable and provides support to NCKCN, the 501(c)3 Internet Service Provider operated by the NCRPC. Chelsea previously worked in customer service for 20 years—most recently in e-commerce and web data management. She is a Wichita area native and moved to Beloit in 2014.

Other recent position changes include the naming of Bri Beck as Director of Community Development and Kendra Ryser as Weatherization Director. Beck has been with the organization since 2020 as a Community Development Representative. Ryser joined the NCRPC in 2019 as Weatherization Assistant and most recently served as the Interim Weatherization Director.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Changes Announced for Upcoming CDBG Funding Rounds

Changes in the timing and focus of eligible projects were made to the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program annual competition grants this year. The CDBG program is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce (KDC).

Details for FY 2023 projects were recently released at the Application Workshop. Unless otherwise stated below, application deadlines have been moved from their traditional fall dates to February 1, 2023.

Traditional funding categories for CDBG annual competition grants were housing, community facilities, and water/sewer. The focus of those categories has been expanded. Key changes to note include the following:

  • The CDBG Housing grant has moved from an annual competition round to an open round. Applications will be open from January 2, 2023 through December 1, 2023.
  • Annual competition Water/Sewer Infrastructure grants will only be awarded to communities with KDHE consent orders. These communities must submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) to KDC by November 18, 2022. A draft PER is due with the RFP. Kansas Interagency Advisory Committee (KIAC) meetings will be held the 1st & 2nd weeks in December 2022. KDC will determine if your project is eligible to submit a full application. Please note, CDBG funds will only be used to address the issues surrounding your consent order.
  • The emphasis has changed to funding Regional Water Planning Grants. CDBG requires two or more entities to be involved to be considered regional. Applications will be open from January 2, 2023 through December 1, 2023. LMI requirements do not apply. Please note, KDHE requires three or more entities to be involved to be considered regional.
  • The Community Facilities grant will now focus on three targeted categories: Non-Profit Childcare and Education Facilities; Community Centers, Libraries & Parks; and Sidewalks & Trails.
  • The Youth Training category is intended to be partnered with the JAG program and assist high school students with tuition, books, supplies, and training. This can be used as gap funding with other programs, but there can be no duplication of benefits.
  • The Architectural Barrier Removal grant is intended to assist with accessibility issues upon entering a for-profit business.

To be eligible for CDBG funds, a project must meet at least one of the following federally mandated criteria: benefits low- and/or moderate-income individuals; removes or prevents slum or blighted conditions; or eliminates an urgent need created by a disaster when local funds are unavailable.

For more information about the CDBG program, visit Kansas Department of Commerce or contact the NCRPC Community Development staff.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

North Central Kansas Regional Relocation Program Launches

A new program that seeks to attract new residents to move to North Central Kansas is now available in Cloud, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic and Saline Counties.

The pilot project known as the North Central Kansas Regional Relocation Program seeks to make home ownership more affordable for those relocating to the region by reducing the barriers of down payments and closing costs. It offers a combination of a 0% down payment assistance loan of $10,000 and closing cost grant of $2,500 when purchasing a home of $50,000 or greater. Eligible home purchase types include existing homes, existing homes with planned/financed upgrades totaling $50,000 or greater, manufactured homes including lot and infrastructure, or new construction. Funds are limited and available on a first come, first served basis. The program officially launched August 15, 2022.

An award from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation of Logan, Kansas, assisted in funding the program, along with a donation from NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. The North Central Regional Planning Commission is administering the program. NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. is an affiliate of the North Central Regional Planning Commission.

Program eligibility includes relocating to an eligible county in North Central Kansas within the past 18 months prior to the request. Additionally, the primary bank loan must be provided by a bank having a physical location in the North Central Regional Planning Commission 12-county service area.

“We are pleased to bring this program to North Central Kansas,” Program Manager Debra Peters said. “It offers new residents up to 18 months to experience all the region has to offer before staking roots here.”

Results of the pilot program will be used to develop a permanent regional relocation program in 2024.

For more information about the program, contact your local bank or realtor or visit the NCK Regional Relocation Incentive page.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Home Ownership Program Update

Program Assisted in Purchase of 25 Homes Last Year

Financial incentives offered through the NCK Home Ownership Program assisted in the purchase of 25 homes in the region following the pilot program’s official expansion to Jewell and Saline Counties in June 2021.

The program assisted eligible home buyers with down payment and closing cost assistance. The total value of the 25 homes was $4.3 million, with $312,500 coming from the pilot program. Five homes in Jewell County and three homes in Saline County were purchased with program assistance. Another 17 homes were purchased in counties where the NCK Home Ownership Pilot Program had launched previously. The program completed in December 2021.

The NCRPC administered the program offered by its housing non-profit, NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. The non-profit serves Cloud, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, and Saline Counties. An award from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation of Logan, Kansas, assisted in the creation of the loan and grant pool, along with a regional match from NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. The mission of the non-profit is to preserve and strengthen housing in its service area.

The 2021 pilot defined and marketed an eligible home project to include a home purchase price of $50,000 or greater including an existing home, existing home with planned/financed upgrades totaling $50,000 or greater, manufactured home including lot and infrastructure, or new construction.

“The results of this new marketing effort resulted in 10 of the 25 eligible home projects including $211,000 investment in improvements/remodeling of the existing home being purchased and a $1,411,000 investment in new housing stock,” NCRPC Home Ownership Program Coordinator Keegan Bailey said.”

Program data indicate positive local impacts. In a survey of home buyers, 20% were first-time home buyers and 39% took a new job in the last 24 months with 10% of those reporting the program incentive was a factor in their job decision.

“With the expansion of the pilot program to Jewell and Saline counties, we continued to see strong interest from individuals with local ties to the region with 73% of homebuyers reporting that they graduated from a school in the NCRPC 12-county service area,” NCRPC Home Ownership Program Manager Debra Peters said. “We were also encouraged by 24% of buyers moving from out of state.”

Additional pilot programs have been completed in the City of Marysville and Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Lincoln and Mitchell Counties. Since 2018, home ownership programs have combined to assist in the purchase of 114 homes in the region with an approximate value of $14.2 million. Future plans include the expansion of pilot home ownership programs in each of the remaining counties in the NCRPC 12-county service area, pending the availability of funding.

Learn more about the home ownership programs.

Washington County Home Ownership Program Currently Available
Pilot program launched June 20, 2022. Limited funds available on a first come, first served basis. Act now!

Offered by Four Rivers Housing Opportunities, Inc., a non-profit serving Clay, Dickinson, Marshall and Washington Counties. Managed by North Central Regional Planning Commission.

Learn More

This article appeared in the June 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.