Blog Archives

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.

Project Spotlight: Vermillion Water Project

Residents Enjoying Clean Water with Completion of First Phase of Project

image of sludge filled/corroded pipes

A two-phase project in the City of Vermillion is working to resolve many water issues, including the presence of sludge filled/corroded pipes. (Courtesy Photo)

While many take access to clean water for granted, residents in the small town of Vermillion, Kansas, located in eastern Marshall County, are celebrating the recent connection of a new source of water supply.

The original water source and systems circa 1934 were plagued with increasing concerns in recent years. The City of Vermillion (population 80) had a water well source with high concentrations of iron and manganese. To mitigate the issues, the system was flushed regularly to try to rid it of the odorous colored water. Some residents even adjusted laundry around the flushing schedule to ensure that their white laundry stayed white. More importantly, the water quality was poor and the EPA deemed it unfit for infants to drink.

The city did what it could to maintain and improve the water system and increased water rates incrementally several times. The needs, however, were great. Eventually the city turned to outside funding sources beginning with a USDA SEARCH grant to complete preliminary testing for new well sites. The city then decided to take a two phased approach to address its water needs. For Phase 1, the city was awarded $252,000 through the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. The City of Vermillion secured additional funds through a combination of a USDA Rural Development loan of $415,000 and grant of $1,890,000.

image of water being flushed

A comparison of water being flushed before (left) the new water source supply and after (right). (Courtesy Photo)

“Improving the water quality is a critical need for a community — and it was impacting Vermillion’s growth overall,” said Amanda Horn, NCRPC Community Development Representative.

A new well has been the primary focus of Phase 1 and the new source of supply is now connected in Vermillion. A new hydracone water tower is nearing completion. This first phase will also include tearing down and disposing of the old water tower.

The NCRPC, with Horn as the project lead, provided planning assistance, grant writing and project administration. Other non-funding key partners involved with the project — all from Kansas — were engineers CES Group, Inc. of Marysville, and contractors J&K Contracting of Junction City, Jadwin Construction of Hiawatha, Gerard Tank and Steel of Concordia, and Terrane Resources of Stafford.

The project has not been without challenges. Original cost estimates for the project were pre-COVID, but the cost skyrocketed with the surge in prices and material availability issues. This could have jeopardized the project, but partners worked together to find solutions to keep things moving forward.

“Huge credit goes to everyone who has assisted with this project,” Horn said. “I feel like each entity has gone the extra mile for the town in order to make things work.”

There is more work to be done and a second phase is planned, but first residents are celebrating the recent connection of the new source of water supply. “I washed a load of white clothes the other day and they came out looking as white as they did going in,” one resident commented. “I never used to buy white clothes because they would come out yellow.”

“Everyone has been wanting this for Vermillion for years,” another resident said. “Good water is a must, and now we have it!”

Next up in Phase 2 is to focus on the distribution infrastructure to ensure the community can grow and prosper for the next 100 years.

“I call Vermillion my “miracle” city,” said Horn. “They have gotten a lot right that not many cities could. They are an example to any small town that big things are possible.”

This article appeared in the Quarter 2 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. To view more Project Spotlights, visit

Setting, Evaluating Goals Important to Community and Organization Success

image of goal setting conceptDreaming big, setting goals, making bold plans for the future — these actions all can play an important role in community or organization success.

NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor Deb Ohlde facilitated a recent goal setting session with Republic County Economic Development board members. This was the second session that Ohlde had facilitated for the group.

“Making goals is one thing, but we really try to make them and utilize these goals,” said Jenny Russell, Republic County Economic Development (RCED) Director. “In the last year, RCED has taken the goals from these sessions and put them into our work plans to measure success each month.”

Routinely setting goals is beneficial for communities, local governments, and nonprofit organizations. Stepping back to review and update goals regularly is also needed.

image of Republic County Economic Development goal setting session

Republic County Economic Development hosted a goal setting session on April 17, 2023 facilitated by NCRPC staff.

“There is turnover in board members or elected officials, a new business comes to the area, staff retires, or a new community key issue crops up,” Ohlde said. “Things change and it is important to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands what the community or organization is working toward.”

While goal setting approaches may vary, consistency is key.

“I think a formal, longer session with some additional gathering of feedback such as through a survey or a community meeting should happen at least every three years,” Ohlde said. “In between time, the board should be reviewing and tweaking goals at least quarterly to make sure they haven’t strayed from their work plan and to make adjustments for new circumstances.”

Another bonus of goal setting is increased readiness for possible grant funding. As funding sources are rolling out fast with short turnaround times, having projects identified and moving forward is helpful.

Contact the NCRPC Community Development staff to learn more about goal setting meeting facilitation and other customized solutions to meet your project needs.

This article appeared in the Quarter 2 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Initiative Aims to Address Rural Housing Challenges

Pilot program offers financial assistance for moderate-income housing rehabilitation, demolition

image of home renovation conceptA pilot program intended to strengthen housing in rural communities recently launched its second year. NCRPC is administering the program — called the NCRPC Housing Initiative — through a partnership with the Dane G. Hansen Foundation of Logan, Kansas.

The initiative includes financial assistance for moderate-income housing rehabilitation and demolition of dilapidated residential structures. The Demolition Pilot Program offers reimbursement grants of up to $5,000 per property for removal and cleanup of structures. There are no income qualifications for the demolition program. The Moderate Income Housing Rehabilitation Pilot Program offers reimbursement grants of up to $10,000 to homeowners in eligible counties to complete minor housing upgrades. Households must meet moderate income guidelines outlined in the program application to be eligible to apply. Homeowners must also provide a 10% match and pay any costs above and beyond the grant.

The 2023 service locations include the following Kansas counties: Cheyenne, Decatur, Gove, Graham, Republic, and Rooks. Assistance is available to income eligible residents on a first-come, first-served basis with funding limited per county.

“Housing is just like any other infrastructure in that without maintenance it becomes deteriorated,” said NCRPC Housing Director Keegan Bailey. “We are grateful for the support of the Dane G. Hansen Foundation helping to make the Housing Initiative possible.”

The first pilot programs for the NCRPC Housing Initiative launched in 2022 in Cloud, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Russell, and Smith counties. The first-year funding helped make possible 70 rehabilitation projects and 57 demolitions across the six counties.

“We were thrilled with results of the first year of the initiative,” Bailey said.

For more information or to apply, visit the NCRPC Housing Initiative page.

This article appeared in the Quarter 2 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Results Positive for Home Ownership Pilot Program in Washington County

Financial incentives offered through the Washington County Home Ownership Pilot Program assisted in the purchase of 10 homes in the county from June to December 2022.

The program provided home buyers with down payment and closing cost assistance. The total value of the 10 homes purchased was just over $1.9 million, with $125,000 coming from the pilot program.

Grant funds for the program were provided through a contribution from the Patterson Family Foundation. Loan funds were provided by the North Central Kansas Community Network, Co. (NCKCN)-Four Rivers Business Loan Pool. North Central Regional Planning Commission (NCRPC) administered the program. NCKCN is an affiliate of the NCRPC.

“We were grateful to have the generous support of the Patterson Family Foundation helping to make this program possible,” said NCRPC Home Ownership Program Manager Keegan Bailey. “Strengthening rural housing is a key to success for our communities.”

Survey results of home buyers who accessed the program indicate positive local impacts.

“Employment was listed as the greatest reason for moving at 87%,” Bailey said. “We were also pleased to see a high percentage of young home buyers with 73% of home buyers under the age of 30.”

Other notable outcomes include 93% of home buyers reported the program was a factor in their decision to purchase a home at this time, 67% bought their first home, and 67% graduated from a high school in one of the counties in the NCRPC service area — including Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Marshall, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, Saline and Washington.

Similar pilot programs have been completed in Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, and Saline counties and the City of Marysville. Future plans include the expansion of pilot home ownership programs to each of the remaining counties in the NCRPC 12-county service area, pending the availability of funding. Results of these pilot programs will be used to develop a permanent regional relocation program.

Learn more about the Home Ownership Program initiative.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Peters Recognized for Service to Regional Homeland Security Councils as Fiscal Agent

image of Lisa Peters receiving Outstanding Service Award for 2022 from Kansas Emergency Management Association

Kansas Emergency Management Association President Kathleen Fabrizius (left) presented NCRPC staff member Lisa Peters (right) with the Outstanding Service Award for 2022. (Courtesy Photo)

NCRPC staff member Lisa Peters was presented the Outstanding Service Award for 2022 by the Kansas Emergency Management Association at the end of last year. Lisa is NCRPC Assistant Director and serves as Homeland Security Coordinator. The NCRPC is contracted to provide fiscal agent services to six of the Regional Homeland Security Councils in Kansas. This award recognizes exemplary service to the Homeland Security Program and the counties and communities it serves.

Homeland Security Program project investments address the planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs to help build local and regional response capabilities and encourage citizen safety and preparedness. Cybersecurity has increasingly become a focus for projects and became a major point of emphasis in 2022 for Peters and the Regional Homeland Security Councils she helps to administer.

“Unfortunately, the threat, frequency, and cost of cyber attacks for county and local public safety organizations grows every year,” Peters said. “A percentage of all of our projects are now earmarked to address cybersecurity issues. There was a learning curve as regional councils determined how best to approach the challenges, but projects are now underway with the goal of improving cybersecurity resiliency of the involved counties.”

The State and Local Cybersecurity projects are funded by grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Free Virtual Training Courses Now Available

Topics Cover Remote Work, Rural Grocery Stores, Nonprofits

NCRPC is now hosting free, virtual training courses covering a wide range of topics. Courses available on the training website include a remote work series and a comprehensive rural grocery training series. In addition, some recorded nonprofit board development trainings that were offered in 2021 and 2022 are also archived on the site.

These courses were made possible, in part, through a U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant awarded to the NCRPC.

Learn more and check out what is available by visiting the training site.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.