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Countywide strategic planning session – one year later

First printed in the Lincoln Sentinel in September, 2015

It’s been a year (almost) since the Countywide Strategic Planning Session was held to develop priorities for the future of the county so I thought this would be a good time to do a quick update on some progress.

1) Recruit a veterinarian to the county – For being an extraordinarily daunting task, I feel we’ve made about as good of progress as I ever could have hoped we would make in a year. Several meetings were held with a large number of people to gather input, a countywide survey was conducted to better understand the needs of citizens, a letter and flyer promoting the county as an opportunity were sent to a large number of vets licensed in the state since 2000, and the opportunity was posted on the K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s website.

This has led to several inquiries including a visit this past week with a veterinarian and his wife. They came to take a closer look at the county, look as some potential sites, meet with a couple people, and get an idea if we are a good match for their goals. I was very impressed with them and overall felt good about their visit. But it’s a little too early to say what happens next. Experience has taught me not to get too excited but I will certainly do all I can to help them with their decision.

2) Retain youth and develop entrepreneurship in the county – When a task force was organized after the strategic planning session to focus on this topic, two primary issues rose to the surface. The first issue had to do with the disconnect between our youth and the many career opportunities available here in the county. As a big first step, the task force (a group of wonderfully dedicated volunteers) quickly dove into the idea of a countywide Career Day for high school students featuring locals who have successful careers here, not in Kansas City or elsewhere, and highlighting the job opportunities that exist now and in the future when our youth will be ready to enter the job market. Lincoln County Career Day, on November 10th, is going to be a BIG day and one that is intended to shrink the gap between our youth and our job opportunities.

The second issue had to do with the internet and how the connectivity and speeds available in Lincoln are not keeping up with what is required in this day and age to do business. (Fortunately this isn’t such a problem in the Sylvan Grove area with Wilson Communication’s Fiber to the Home project.) Within the past couple weeks, Jack Crispin and I met with representatives from the North Central Regional Planning Commission (NCRPC) and NCKCN out of Beloit to develop a preliminary idea of how connectivity and speeds might be improved. It’s just a first step with many details yet to be determined but with anything, you don’t get anywhere without a first step.

3) Develop the travel and tourism industry in the county – For many years, there has been a very strong a dedicated group of volunteers working on this so the goal has been to build on their success. If all goes according to plan, a task force (yet another amazing group of volunteers) will be launching the new and improved “Live Lincoln County” website in mid-November along with a new logo and graphics that will be used on highway signage, interstate billboards, and in many other marketing materials.

4) Improve housing in the county – Much of my efforts this past year has been working with Sylvan Grove in assessing their housing needs and prepping for a $300,000 housing grant application to assist with demolition of dilapidated houses and making improvements to other homes. The NCRPC wrote and submitted Sylvan’s application (an impressively thick document) in August. Since then we have been given word the KS Department of Commerce (KDOC) will be conducting a site visit in early November. This is a key step and one that can really help or hurt an application. The KDOC will be looking to see what kind of pride citizens take in their own homes and community to determine if Sylvan is a good investment of the state’s limited grant funding.

I might be slightly biased when I say this but I think some major progress has been made towards the priorities made a year ago. Admittedly much of the progress has been behind the scenes but I believe the broader community will be seeing visible signs over the next couple months.

If you have any questions about any of the updates above, please feel free to stop by the LCEDF office in the county courthouse basement at 216 E. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln, give me a call at 785-524-8954, or email me at lcedfdirec[email protected].

Kelly Larson
Executive Director
Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation

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