Economic Development - Helping Our Community Grow Part II

Last week I wrote about all the projects we have been working on over the last year.  The development of our Strategic Plan and many of the other initiatives we have started are meant to lay the ground work for projects we hope to accomplish in the future.  Below are projects that we are planning to begin working on over the next year.

·         Community Visioning – The EPA is granting technical assistance to help communities vision what they want their economy to be based on in the future.  Then they will make suggestions for codes, ordinances and infrastructure improvements to support this vision.  We are looking into the possibility of applying for this technical assistance.

·         Brownfields Development – There are a few areas in the county that would be prime pieces of real estate for businesses development if the ground or other contamination could be cleaned up.  We will be looking at the programs available at the state and federal level to aid us in cleaning up some of these properties which would allow for increase business recruitment and development in those areas.

·         Downtown Development – We are currently putting together a community committee to look at the improvement of our downtown areas in the county.  We have also asked K-State Landscape Architectural Department to consider Kinsley as a possible project for creating a streetscape for our downtown area.  When we have a plan developed we can look into possible funding sources.

·         Built Environment – We have already started to improve our built environment through the proposed Kinsley Walking Trail project.  At this point we have raised almost $18,000 for the project and hope to receive notification on the final funding of $64,000 in the next few months.  We have also begun looking at the safety of our walking and biking residents and the feasibility of adding biking lanes and additional sidewalks to link the new trail to other areas of the community including downtown.  We are also looking at the aesthetics of the highway areas the run through our towns and possible solutions to slowing down traffic and enticing travelers to stop.

·         Tourism – Our Tourism Task Force is working on setting goals for their work in the county.  However, we have discussed the possibility of adding signage to direct traffic to shopping, attractions, and recreation in our communities. 

Another topic that will be considered is creating opportunities around existing activities like ball games or meetings that bring visitors to the area.  We are looking at strategies that encourage these individuals to spend the day in the area visiting attractions, restaurants and retail shops.  We will also be looking at the use of technology like smart phones and their applications as a method of promoting tourism in the county.

·         Housing – We have established a group of individuals that are interested in increasing housing options in our county.  This group will begin meeting in 2011 and looking at available programs, resources and funding options as well as partnerships with our communities to achieve their goal.  We cannot grow our communities if we have no where for new people to live.  This issue impacts everything in economic development.  Businesses cannot recruit qualified staff if they can’t find a place to live and we cannot recruit new businesses if they cannot find workers.

·         Business Services – We will continue to offer services and training to entrepreneurs hoping to open a business as well as offer increased services to existing businesses.  We plan to facilitate a seminar on marketing and other topics that may be of interest to businesses.  In addition we hope to begin a regular newsletter for businesses that includes resources, events, training and other information of interest to existing businesses.  We also hope to continue to support our primary employers with resources that promote growth and add jobs to our community.

·         Workforce Development – Unlike many areas of the country, we do not have a high number of unemployed workers.  Rather our employers are plagued with the problem of finding qualified workers for their businesses.  We are hoping to organize a career fair for junior/senior high students showcasing not only traditional educational opportunities, but technical and vocational opportunities.  We plan to explore ways to foster the entrepreneurial spirit among our young people as a method of increasing the number of youth who stay in our communities and open their own businesses.  In addition we are exploring the possibility of organizing regular all school reunions as a way to bring large numbers of people to town but also as an opportunity to entice those who have roots here to move back to the area.

·         Retail Opportunities – We plan to continue looking at ways to increase the range of retail products that are available to residents in the area by recruiting retail businesses and working with existing businesses to increase their product lines to include those things we travel out of town for.

·         Funding – We are looking at several programs to increase funding for business startups and expansions as well as non-profits and other community development projects.  One option that is being considered is becoming an E-Community.  This program, offered through Network Kansas allows communities to raise capital for business startups and expansions through the sale of State Tax Credits. 

We are also always looking at grant funding resources and paring those with needs of the county whether it be recreational, infrastructure or human services.  We are already working with the Hospital, the City of Kinsley, and the City of Offerle with acquiring funding to support needing infrastructure improvements.  We are also looking into funding for the Palace Theater, National Foundation for Carnival Heritage, the Kinsley Golf Club

We are also proposing a 3/8th cent countywide sales tax to fund economic development services.  This proposal would allow for increased funding and program growth.  In addition, it would relieve some of the tax burden from property owners to include all residents and visitors who make purchases in the county.  Residents of the county will have the opportunity to approve this investment in our future growth and prosperity when they vote in the April 2011 election.