Blog Archives

Housing Assessment Tool a Resource for Addressing Community Housing Needs

Technical Assistance Grants Available in Some Areas

image of house and puzzle piecesAlthough specific housing challenges may vary among communities, what remains the same is there are no simple solutions when it comes to addressing those needs.

A good first step is evaluating existing housing stock and determining goals and priorities. If a community is interested in applying for outside funding for a housing project, most funding agencies require some type of a housing study or housing needs assessment.

“I recommend that each community complete or update their Housing Assessment Tool to be ready for funding opportunities,” said Keegan Bailey, NCRPC Housing Director.

Completing a Housing Assessment Tool, also known as the HAT, is required to apply for a Housing Rehabilitation and Demolition Project through the Kansas Department of Commerce Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. The HAT is also useful for other funding programs. It helps communities assess their housing inventory and needs and may eliminate the need to hire a consultant to perform a housing study. A HAT is good for five years unless there are major changes in the community, such as losing or gaining a large employer.

“Although the HAT is a community-led effort, we are ready to work with communities to answer questions and help guide you every step of the way to develop a plan,” Bailey said.

For communities located in the 26-county service area of the Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center, Inc., there is now grant funding that can help. The K-State 105 Technical Assistance Grant provides funding for professional services to assist rural communities in developing or updating their HAT. The Innovation Center is a K-State 105 partner. K-State 105 is Kansas State University’s answer to the call for a comprehensive economic growth and advancement solution for Kansas.

The maximum grant amount for technical assistance for each new HAT is $1,500. A local match of $500 is required, which can be cash or in-kind service directly related to the development of the HAT. For communities only needing to update their HAT, the maximum grant amount is $750 for technical assistance with a $250 local match required. To view the Innovation Center service area, visit

“We know that understanding the complexities of housing and the various funding sources available can be overwhelming,” Bailey said. “We are here to be a resource for communities and to help simplify the process as much as possible.”

Funding is also available from the Innovation Center to assist rural communities in creating a Reinvestment Housing Incentive District (RHID) — including the Housing Needs Analysis. More information about RHIDs and the HAT can be found at the Innovation Center website.

For questions about the HAT or to get started, contact NCRPC Housing Director Keegan Bailey at 785-738-2218 or

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Project Spotlight: Commercial Rehabilitation Project in Lincoln

Project Restores Historic Lincoln Building, Fulfills Community Need for a Fitness Center

image of the Post Rock Fitness location before renovations began

Many of the defining historical features were covered prior to the project in the building located at 113 W. Lincoln Avenue in downtown Lincoln, KS. (Courtesy Photo)

The need for a fitness center had been talked about in the City of Lincoln, Kansas, for several years. A committee was even formed to focus efforts on developing one, but funding challenges hindered progress.

When Kelly Gourley purchased a vacant, historic property in downtown Lincoln in 2019, opening a fitness center was not at the top of her list of ideas for the space. However, her journey to open a business brought the conversations about the need for a fitness center full circle. Today, Gourley owns/operates Post Rock Fitness in addition to serving as Executive Director of Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation.

image of interior of Post Rock Fitness, Lincoln, KS after a large renovation project

Renovations helped bring the building back to new life as a fitness center and were made possible through funding from the owner, awards from the CDBG Commercial Rehabilitation and HEAL programs, and State and Federal Historic Tax Credits. (Courtesy Photo)

Post Rock Fitness opened in August 2022 at 113 West Lincoln Avenue in the newly renovated historic building in downtown Lincoln. The fitness center is membership-based offering walk-in passes, one-week passes, or monthly memberships. Members have access to the facility 19 hours/day, 7 days a week through a mobile app.

The process to bring the vacant building to new life was long and costly. Securing outside funding was critical to success. The City of Lincoln was awarded a $250,000 Commercial Rehabilitation grant in 2020 through the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce.

Also key in helping Gourley move the project forward was the timely rollout of the Historic Economic Asset Lifeline (HEAL) program, also from Kansas Department of Commerce, and the ability to apply for State and Federal Historic Tax Credits due to the designation of the community’s historic downtown district.

“Although I knew a fitness center was a need in the community, I knew it wasn’t going to be able to support the level of renovations the building required,” Gourley said. “The CDBG program was able to bridge the gap between the cost of renovations and the financing the business could support.”

According to Gourley, the project was not without its challenges.

“Because CDBG is a federal program, there are requirements that local contractors have a hard time meeting. Even more challenging was trying to launch the project right as the cost of construction was skyrocketing after COVID,” Gourley said. “Once the project finally got under construction, it was exciting to see several years’ worth of planning finally coming to life!”

Due to rising costs, the project had to be scaled back from its original scope of work. In addition to roof repairs, improvements mostly focused on the interior such as electrical and plumbing updates along with HVAC, insulating and repairing damaged floors, walls, and ceiling. Gourley has since completed additional front facade improvements.

The NCRPC provided planning assistance, grant writing and project administration for the CDBG Commercial Rehabilitation portion of the project. Other non-funding key partners involved with the project were Bruce McMillian Architects, Manhattan, Kansas; and Wiens & Company Construction Inc., Hutchinson, Kansas.

“I could not have done this without the help of the NCRPC, especially Bri Beck,” Gourley said. “She is a pro and made sure that all of us were always staying on track with the requirements of the CDBG program.”

While restoring a vacant historic building and opening a business were the primary results of this project, perhaps just as important has been enhancing quality of life for residents and bringing the community together – even if it is informally through Wednesday night yoga classes. To learn more about the business, visit

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2023 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.
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Kansas Nonprofit Security Grant Program Offers Funding for Security Enhancements

Prepare Now for FY24 Application Cycle

image of security conceptFunding is available for physical security enhancements and other security-related activities for nonprofit organizations at high risk of a terrorist attack. The funding comes from the Kansas Nonprofit Security Grant Programs (NSGP). The program also seeks to integrate the preparedness activities of nonprofit organizations with broader state and local preparedness efforts, such as enhancing the protection of crowded areas.

The Kansas Highway Patrol is the State Administrative Agency for the grant program. While the FY23 projects have already been awarded, eligible nonprofits can begin preparing now to be ready for the FY24 application period.

The facility you are applying for must be completed (not under construction), occupied, and operational by the time of application and located in Kansas. Eligible nonprofits can apply for $150,000 per facility up to three facilities to enhance the security of these working facilities to prepare and protect your soft targets from acts of terrorism.

For more information and to preview application requirements, visit

“We will begin our educational application phase in January with webinars, so make sure you register to place your name on our contact list,” said Lt. Edna Cordner, Grants Manager, Kansas Highway Patrol.

To subscribe directly to NSGP emails, visit Astra is the new online system to sign-up for Kansas NSGP updates. It will also be used for FY24 project submissions when the grant opportunity is released in 2024.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

High School Seniors Invited to Enter Rural Voices Youth Contest

image of money and graduation capHigh school seniors in North Central Kansas are once again invited to compete for a chance to win $1,000 by submitting an essay or short video in the Rural Voices Youth Contest. The 2023-2024 contest theme is “Rural Kansas…Success Through Innovation.”

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. The NCRPC has sponsored the contest annually since 2006 in honor of long-time former executive director John Cyr.

Any senior in high school who lives in or attends a school in the 12-county NCRPC service area is eligible to enter.

The deadline to submit an entry is February 1, 2024. Additional information and registration details are available at the contest page.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.


Convenience Store in Wilson Fully Transitioned to New Owner

Loan Programs Assist Women-Owned Business

image of Stop 2 Shop in Wilson, Kansas

A project to purchase the real estate and equipment at Stop 2 Shop located at 2720 Avenue E, Wilson, KS, was completed earlier in 2023. (Courtesy Photo by Keith Gustin)

Stop 2 Shop in Wilson, Kansas, has long been the local source in the community to fuel your day – whether it be with needed gas or diesel, or in the form of food and beverages.

The gas station/convenience store serves local customers from Wilson and the Wilson Lake area as well as travelers on Kansas Highway 232 and Interstate 70. Since 2017 Niki (Whitmer) Mikulecky has operated the business as sole owner/President of NC Convenience Inc. while renting the physical assets from the previous owner. Prior to that, Niki worked for the previous operator for six years.

Earlier this year, NC Convenience Inc. officially purchased the real estate, equipment and fuel inventory. Other than a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating Niki’s purchase, operations continued as normal ensuring a seamless transition for customers.

The facility has three fuel pumps with two offering highway or E-10 gas and one offering highway or farm diesel. The kitchen features daily specials with lunch and dinner options including pizza, cheese burgers, fried chicken and other fried foods. Customers can enjoy indoor seating or take food “to go.”

In addition to Niki working full-time as owner/manager, the business employs four others in varying capacities.

This project was made possible with investment by the owner as well as funding from First Bank Kansas of Ellsworth, the NCK Business Down Payment Assistance Loan Program and NCRPC Revolving Loan Fund offered through the NCRPC Business Finance Program.

Learn more about the NCRPC Business Finance program. For more information about the business, find it on Facebook.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

North Central Kansas Regional Relocation Pilot Program Has Positive Local Impacts

Pilot Program Helps 25 Families Stake Roots in Region

image of relocation conceptFinancial incentives offered through the pilot North Central Kansas Regional Relocation Program attracted 38 new residents and assisted in the purchase of 25 homes in the region in the past year.

The pilot program launched August 15, 2022 and concluded in Spring 2023. It was available in Cloud, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic and Saline counties. The program helped make home ownership more affordable for those relocating to the region by reducing the barriers of down payments and closing costs.

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.

“This initiative would not have been possible without the generous assistance from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation and the tremendous support we received from area banks and economic development groups,” Program Manager Keegan Bailey said.

The program offered 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 of greater. In total, it impacted 64 residents living in 25 households. Of the residents who accessed the program, 15 moved from out of state, 26 moved from within North Central Kansas, and 23 moved from elsewhere in Kansas.

To be eligible, home buyers had to relocate to an eligible county in North Central Kansas within 18 months of the request. The primary bank loan also had to be provided by a bank having a physical location in the NCRPC 12-county service area.

“We were encouraged by the program results and positive local impacts in the region,” Bailey said.

Since 2018, the various home ownership loan/grant programs in the region administered by the NCRPC have combined to assist in the purchase of 149 homes with an approximate value of $19.9 million. The previous pilot projects led to the creation of the 2022-2023 NCK Regional Relocation Program.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Around the Region: Combining Housing and Workforce Needs

Challenges Lead Nonprofit Board, Administrator to Get Creative in Approach to Address Needs

image of a renovated home

Nicol Home Facility Administrator Carter Olson renovated and sold this previously vacant home to an employee last year.

Workforce and housing needs often go hand in hand. When recruiting staff was a struggle, Nicol Home Facility Administrator Carter Olson got creative with efforts to address both needs.

When Olson began work in 2018 as Facility Administrator at Nicol Home in Glasco, Kansas, there were 11 employees. The 32-bed skilled nursing facility is a nonprofit. He approached his board about recruitment issues and they ultimately offered relocation bonuses to all staff at different levels. This was just the beginning of his efforts to grow the staff to the 25 who work there today.

Olson also began the search to buy vacant homes to renovate so that he could sell or, in some cases, rent back to his employees. In the past year he matched employees with two homes — one a rental and the other a renovation project that he sold.

“My goal is to breathe life back into a home so an employee can live there secure,” Olson said. “There is a huge benefit to having employees invested and living in the community.”

Carter and his family do much of the labor on the homes, though they have consulted or hired local contractors when a specialty need arises. Olson and his wife have three young children. “Having a young family keeps our mind on what we can do for the town to keep it growing,” Olson said.

The family is careful with their investments. They consider the big-ticket item needs and weigh that into the price of the home and mortgage cost — all while trying to keep it affordable for employees with a short-term mortgage. Some efforts to help place employees in the community have taken less financial investment.

“Sometimes we simply help landlords clean up homes that staff are planning to move into to rent,” Olson said. “We truly care about our employees. Helping them find a suitable place to live is one way that we can show that. Keeping houses full also helps keep the community growing and vibrant.”

The efforts do not stop with housing for Olson or the Nicol Home Board of Directors. He recently helped spearhead fundraising for murals. The result to date is seven murals painted throughout town. Nicol Home recently invested in helping to bring a medical clinic to town. Next, they have their sights set on opening a Glasco community gym.

“I have a great board who have allowed me to invest in the community,” Olson said. “We try to think about what can we do to help keep the community sustainable, because it’s hard to have a successful business without a community.”

Olson was not a stranger to Glasco when he took the job in 2018 with his great grandmother being a former Glasco resident and having visited there for family reunions. He grew up in Kansas City, moved to Wamego his senior year of high school and graduated from K-State.

“My journey has allowed me to bring a different perspective. Things take time to change,” Olson said. “My biggest piece of advice for others is to keep trying and have patience.”

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Remote Online Initiative Launches in Four North Central KS Counties

Residents in Clay, Dickinson, Marshall and Washington counties in North Central Kansas are eligible for scholarships to pay for month-long online classes that will provide certification as a remote work professional. NCRPC is working cooperatively with K-State Research and Extension on this Remote Online Initiative project, which is funded by a NetWorked Community Solutions Grant from NetWork Kansas.

“The goal is to encourage employers to successfully utilize remote workers and to provide people with training needed to work remotely successfully,” said Deb Ohlde, NCRPC Assistant Director for Strategic Initiatives.

To learn more or to register, visit

View the full news release. (PDF, 100 KB)

View the flyer for more information. (PDF, 369 KB)

Remote Work Resources

Webinars and other information related to remote work.  (Courtesy of Kansas Remote Online Initiative)

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2023 NCRPC Newsletter and was updated March 25, 2024.

Project Spotlight: Weatherization

Improvements to Increase Energy Efficiency of Multi-Family Unit Completed

image of apartment complex that received energy efficiency improvements

Weatherization assistance improvements at this multi-family apartment complex in Osborne increased comfort and energy efficiency for its tenants.

Residents living in a 40-unit affordable housing complex in Osborne, Kansas, should start to see savings on energy costs thanks to improvements made possible through the Weatherization Assistance Program.

The Osborne Housing Authority, started in 1968, manages the Solomon Valley Apartments. The complex is comprised of duplexes, 4-plexes and a 6-plex, with the newest units constructed in 1982.

The Weatherization Assistance Program allowed for the installation of more than 26,000 square feet of attic insulation, nearly 8,600 square feet of sidewall insulation, and the installation of air sealing measures such as weatherstripping, caulking, and door sweeps. Throughout the apartments new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors were installed as well as 350 LED lightbulbs. Other minor health and safety measures were also completed.

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.

“Many of our clients are residents living in single family homes,” said Kendra Ryser, NCRPC Weatherization Director. “When we get the opportunity to complete a multi-family unit project like the one in Osborne, it is rewarding knowing the program is positively impacting more residents at one time.”

Ryser acknowledges there are many similar multi-family housing units in the region that could benefit from the Weatherization Assistance Program. The first step is applying. Please note that due to program demand, there currently is a waiting list for services.

“They were on the waiting list for about two years,” Ryser said. “The work then took about three months and was completed in March of this year. The process was not quick, but the benefits will hopefully last a long time.”

To view maximum income guidelines or learn more, visit the NCRPC Weatherization page.

Did you Know?

image of lightbulb and money saving conceptOctober marks Energy Awareness Month and Weatherization Day is officially recognized on October 30. Did you know that over its more than 40-year history nationally, the Weatherization Assistance Program has weatherized more than 8.1 million homes? See energy saving tips.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

To view more Project Spotlight articles, visit

New Custom Meat Processor Offers Mobile Harvesting

Loan Program Assists with Abilene Start-Up Business

image of Midwest Meats' headquarters near downtown in Abilene, Kansas

Headquarters for Midwest Meats is located at 610 South Buckeye Avenue in Abilene. The location features a mural painted by Mindy’s Murals of Junction City. (Courtesy Photo)

A new, custom meat processing business is now open in Abilene, Kansas. Midwest Meats, with headquarters located at 610 South Buckeye Avenue near the downtown district, officially got its start earlier this year with its self-contained mobile harvesting unit.

The unit is taken directly to farms for custom harvesting, which provides flexibility and convenience for producers. The business currently offers processing of beef, pork, lamb, goat and bison. Future plans are to grow the retail side of business with a craft butcher shop.

Midwest Meats is a family endeavor for owners Troy and Wendy Leith and their children who are also involved with daily operations. Their son, Bryan, is plant manager, and daughter, Morgan, is retail clerk.

“Business is going great,” said co-owner Wendy Leith. “We started custom processing in March and have been pretty booked since. With the help of the Dickinson County Community Foundation we were able to buy our retail bunkers and fresh meat case and started a small amount of retail items in early August.”

The Leith family opened Midwest Meats in Spring 2023. It offers mobile harvesting and custom meat processing. (Courtesy Photo)

The startup business was made possible with investment by the owners as well as funding from Pinnacle Bank in Abilene, Community Foundation of Dickinson County-Impact Fund loan, and the NCK Business Down Payment Assistance Loan Program and NCRPC Revolving Loan Fund offered through the NCRPC Business Finance Program.

Learn more about the NCRPC Business Finance program.

For more information about the business, find it on social media or visit

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.