Homegrown success

Diversity outside of agriculture lies in nurturing entrepreneurs, says RCED director

By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor

Small business is big business for Republic County.

Between 2001 and 2016 the number of jobs in Republic County provided by businesses that employ two to nine people grew by 526 jobs, according to information compiled by Republic County Economic Development Director Luke Mahin.

Overall the county has gained 288 jobs in the last 15 years, for a total of 2,906. The total number of business establishments in the county is 531, compared to 376 in 2001.

“Homegrown businesses are responsible for most new jobs,” Mahin told the annual meeting of the RCEDabout the importance of what he calls the “entrepreneurial pipeline”.

“There’s more opportunity for growth in a one-person shop that becomes a four-person shop.”

Mahin said agriculture will always be the dominant employer in Republic County, but economic development is always seeking ways to add new types of businesses the county’s job base. (Agriculture is diversifying too)

“As technology has changed agriculture, how do we keep diversifying?” he asked. One of Mahin’s many hats is to serve on the North Central Kansas Food Council, which looks to develop more specialty crop and farm-to-table businesses in the region.

“$13 million is spent on food in Republic County each year,” he said. “It matters that we grow the amount of food that is produced here.” (View full Republic County Food System Report)

The county has seen surprising trends in recent years, he said:

  • The number of residents ages 20 to 24 and 30 to 34 were the two areas of growth in the 2010 Census and 2016 American Community Survey. While the average age of county residents is 50.4 years, the population in many of the county’s smaller communities is below 45, he said.  “Young people are looking to come back here for quality of life,” 

  • In 2002, 444 people who lived outside of Republic County worked here. In 2014, the county drew 674 workers from outside it’s boundaries, while 1,208 people chose to live in Republic County even though they have jobs elsewhere, he said. Most people who access the RCED website are seeking information on jobs, housing, and daycare, he said.
  • Since 2011, 75 projects have been enrolled in the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, a program that provides a tax rebate for qualifying commercial, industrial, residential or ag construction. “When the program started, many of the projects were ag construction,” he says. “That number has slowed, and it’s helped across the board.”
  • Since 2014 the county e-community loan pool has loaned $245,000 to seven businesses. In the same time, the fund raised $300,333 in tax credits and grants. (RCED note: The Network Kansas E-Community program has moved to a regional pooled fund now which allows RP Co. to $250,000 annually for revolving loan funds and up to $25,000 in programs due to Level 1 status)
Visit www.networkansas.com for more information.

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RCED 2018 Annual Presentation by Luke Mahin on Scribd