Republic County might be too modest.
Often when speaking with outsiders about Republic County they refer to it as some hidden secret when they discover what we have here. They learn about our uniquely-active small towns, vast natural beauty, supportive communities, high caliber schools, LOCAL healthcare, exceptional churches, the absence of major crime, outstanding infrastructure, not to mention dynamic citizens who value their sense of place. Being mid-westerners we tend to be too modest on what we offer as a county. Maybe it’s time for us to try to be the “worst kept secret in Kansas”.
Republic County is a place with broad opportunities. To the untrained eye these opportunities are disguised as hard work. It is hard work making a career move, starting a business, returning home, joining a new community, or starting a family. New ideas in rural Kansas are risky business and they take time to grow. I’m not telling you that finding a way to live and work in Republic County was easy for me, I can just tell you it was worth it.
For quite sometime Republic County struggled to broadcast it’s opportunities outside of our hometowns and connect with those now outside the county. Our alumni who moved away for jobs or school were limited to word-of-mouth notice of our opportunities. The news many times reached them too late to take action upon it. Republic County Economic Development (RCED) has been working with our local media outlets, businesses, and organizations to bridge this gap between opportunity and those seeking it. Growth in a rural community must start internally and when our students leave the county we must be able to engage them. RCED is working to reach them online via our website (1,000+ monthly visitors from over 10+ countries) and social media outlets (Facebook 847 fans & Twitter 263 followers) as well as with traditional media. We are leveraging new technology with our community voice to promote a positive county image globally. Though, it is daunting to sell opportunity when we can’t always put a price tag on a rural community’s largest assets.
There have been many changes since I moved home to Courtland after graduating college in 2010. The most inspirational thing I’ve seen in that time is a county-wide shift in attitude regarding our potential. While growing and going to school many typical conversations on a town’s future would be geared to rural retrograde. Now I hear more conversations lending themselves to optimistic action rooted in boot-strapped cooperation. Regionally and state-wide the perception of Republic County has changed too. Our colleagues are often citing how progressive the county has become in recent memory. State program officials tell us communities looking to replicate our successful businesses and community projects here.
RCED has seen success in the last couple years but none of it would have been possible if a positive group of people didn’t come together in 1999 with the idea of uniting multiple resources. When RCED receives attention for a county accomplishments we are the first to attribute it to our strong foundation from the RCED board, county officials, city councils, communities and organizations we work for. They make our county strong and allow us to focus directly on issues like worker recruitment, entrepreneurship, housing, etc. Together the county is starting to address the hard questions, looking for common ground. Therein lies the the greatest source for potential development.
In my brief 26 years here I can honestly say Republic County is not “like it used to be”. So far, I haven’t been convinced that has to be a bad thing.
– Luke Mahin RCED Co-Director
(If you are an alumni of a Republic County school please take a second to help us expand our database by clicking here: www.republiccountykansas.com/alumni)