Blog Archives

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.

Project Spotlight: Innovation Stimulus Program

Program Provided Support, Engineering Services to Local Businesses including Double L Manufacturing

By Bret Lanz, Commercialization Director for Technology Development Institute

Double L Manufacturing worked with Technology Development Institute to create SolidWorks™ models for some of its product lines. (Courtesy Photo)

As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, supply chain concerns and labor shortages continue to impact businesses across the region. In an effort to streamline production processes and document its growing line of products, Double L Manufacturing applied to receive engineering support through the Innovation Stimulus Program.

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.

Since its inception in 2017, Double L Manufacturing, located in Clay Center has continued to grow despite the pandemic challenges. The company specializes in metal fabrication with a mixture of tractor and skid steer attachments which can be private labeled and are sold at a number of implement dealers across the region. It also provides custom fabrication services.

The company applied to the Innovation Stimulus Program in hopes of obtaining engineering support to create CAD models of several of its highest selling products. The models would enable creation of individual part drawings and a detailed set of manufacturing instructions to assist in training new employees.

“We are focused on daily production and ensuring we have all the materials on hand to meet our customer’s needs. We don’t typically have time or the resources to create engineering models and detailed work instructions” said Thomas Mulligan, owner of Double L. “Working with the engineering team at K-State has been a great experience to generate the documentation needed to ensure the highest quality product possible.”

As part of the project, TDI created SolidWorks™ models of the company’s bale spear, pallet forks and tree saw product line in addition to many of the fixtures needed to produce the products. They used the models to work with Double L staff to create detailed manufacturing instructions for each product to improve quality and reduce production time.

“Thomas has done an excellent job of growing his company during some of the most difficult times in recent memory and continues to expand into new products and services,” said Bret Lanz, Commercialization Director for Technology Development Institute.

This article appeared in the June 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Business Owner Creates Platform for Mental Wellness Tools

Loan Provides Capital for Business to Pivot Operations
image of Catherine DiNuzzo

Catherine DiNuzzo

A revenue decline during the pandemic pushed one local business owner to take a new and proactive approach to her business.

Catherine DiNuzzo is a Licensed Professional Counselor, author, and speaker. Based in Beloit, Kansas, she has been in private practice since 2010. Faced with challenges during the pandemic, DiNuzzo pivoted her business model and founded Sacred Heart Mental Wellness. The new platform provides tools and resources for mental wellness and dealing with anxiety from a Catholic perspective. Her accompanying book, “The Catholic Guide Through Anxiety,” is currently available on Amazon.

“When the pandemic hit, the mental health sector did very well. However, in the months immediately following, there was uncertainty and financial constraints and it began to have an impact on my business,” DiNuzzo said. “I was also seeing how the pandemic would affect people’s mental health as a whole and I saw a need. My goal is to change mental health into mental wellness. Part of that shift for me was to be proactive and make tools and resources more accessible with shorter, smaller snippets of information that are more digestible.”

A business loan enabled DiNuzzo to invest in the online resources that she says she would not have otherwise had the capital to do at the time.

“I worked with a local studio for website design/videography and a local person helped me with my book. I really appreciated this opportunity and this was one way I could give back to my area. The loan provided a bridge to help me get to the next place with my business goals.”

The project was made possible, in part, through assistance from the NCK Business Relief Loan Program that was funded by the EDA CARES Act RLF 2020 and administered by the NCRPC. Additional investment was made by the owner.

Learn more about NCRPC Business Finance services and the business.

This article appeared in the June 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Celebrating 50 Years

Organization Celebrates Major Milestone in 2022

image of 50th celebration of NCRPCMarch marks the 50th year since the North Central Regional Planning Commission (NCRPC) was organized.

The NCRPC was first formed in 1972 under K.S.A. 12-716 et seq. (now K.S.A. 12-744) as a multi-county planning organization headquartered in Beloit, Kansas.

In 1980 the NCRPC was designated an Economic Development District by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration. Since that point the organization has evolved into a comprehensive community development and planning group based on K.S.A. 12-744 and structured by K.S.A. 12-2901 et seq. that provides a variety of staff assistance to cities and counties within the traditional planning area at their request. The NCRPC also provides contract services in a much broader area through various programs.

While much has changed over the years, we remain committed to serving communities across North Central Kansas. Thank you for your partnership — past, present and future!

This article appeared in the March 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Communities Awarded CDBG Grants

Several North Central Kansas communities learned last month that they will be receiving funding to help complete a variety of improvement projects across the region.

The awards come 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. Each of these grantees will be contributing matching funds from a variety of sources.

  • City of Burr Oak — $330,000 – Water system improvements
  • City of Cawker City — $454,250  – Water tower
  • City of Concordia — $560,000 – Purchase of a fire ladder truck
  • City of Glasco — $323,530 – Improvements to the lift station and sanitary sewer system
  • City of Lincoln Center — $300,000 – Housing rehabilitation and demolition
  • City of Mankato — $600,000 – Wastewater collection system repairs and improvements
  • City of Marysville — $600,000 – Sanitary sewer treatment facility improvements
  • City of Miltonvale — $383,000 – Wastewater collection system and treatment facility improvements

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

This article appeared in the March 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Project Spotlight: City of Washington Completes Major Water Improvement Project

The City of Washington celebrated the completion of its water project with a ribbon cutting in June 2021. (Courtesy Photo)

Reduced water loss, reduction of water main breaks, and minimal down time due to service interruptions are all benefits that the City of Washington’s utility customers are enjoying after the completion of a major water improvement project in the city in 2021.

The City of Washington is located in North Central Kansas at the intersection of Kansas Highway 15 and U.S. Highway 36 and serves as the County seat. Nearly 80% of the city’s water distribution system dated back to the original system installed in 1914. The original system with small, cast-iron lines had exceeded its useful life. Leaks, water main breaks, and repair expenses for streets that were disturbed in order to access lines were becoming increasingly troublesome.

Improving its water system was a high priority need for the community, but also a costly proposition. The city ultimately applied for funding assistance and was awarded $600,000 through the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. The City of Washington secured additional funds through a combination of a USDA Rural Development loan of $6.3 million and grant of $1.2 million. The city also committed $200,000 in city cash to the project.

The resulting project updated critical infrastructure by installing new water lines, fire hydrants and an automated meter reading system. At the time the CDBG application was submitted (Fall 2018), the city had experienced 58 pipe failures in the previous 5 years. The city is now well positioned for minimal water distribution system maintenance for many years.

“The project has provided upgrades to our water supply system with decreased leaks and line breaks, along with less waste of precious resources. It has also provided improvements to fire protection,” Caroline Scoville, City of Washington EMT, said.

Non funding key partners involved with the project were engineers BG Consultants, Manhattan, Kansas, and contractor Orr Construction Management, Raytown, Missouri ensuring project success. In addition, Kansas Rural Water Association completed a rate study analysis and CES Group P.A. Engineering Consultants, Marysville, helped the city complete the Low to Moderate Income Survey to qualify for funding. NCRPC staff provided project planning assistance, grant writing and administration.

The project took approximately two years from start to finish. Original costs were estimated at just over $8 million, but actual project costs came in under the budgeted amount.

“The upgrades to the system were funded by USDA and CDBG projects, including grant funding and low interest loans. This provided significant cost savings to the citizens over the life of the project, which ultimately affects quality of life for our residents,” Scoville said. “The North Central Regional Planning Commission staff was extremely helpful working on this project, and provided valuable knowledge and assistance.”

For more information about the funding sources used for this project or to discuss a project need, contact the NCRPC community development staff.

This article appeared in the March 2022 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