‘Most New Jobs Are Created By Existing Businesses’

RCED presents 2021 Annual Report

By Deb Hadachek Telescope News

Republic County Economic Development met on February 21 in Cuba and heard a summary of the year’s activities from Director Luke Mahin.

Business highlights during the past year include:

  • Highbanks Wind/NextEra continue to lease land for a potential wind farm.
  • Heartland Gamebirds, Courtland, open a lodge, using in part a $65,000 grant from the Historic Economic Asset Lifeline program to expand an underutilized/vacant building.
  • Kallman Office Suites opened in downtown Belleville.
  • Bobo Meats begins work to convert a former veterinary clinic building on US81 into a meat processing plant.
  • A tour by Kansas Department of Commerce representatives showcasing Republic County industries Grandpa’s Best, Haarslev, Nutri-Shield, Reinke Manufacturing, Belleville Hometown Lumber, Polansky Seed, ProHoe in Munden.
  • Tuxie’s 10 Pins opens a bowling alley in Belleville.
  • The Kansas Agroforestry Award presented to Locke Pierce of Woodland Place Stock Farm near Republic
  • Family Dollar – Dollar Tree opened
  • Plum Crazy Boutique opens in Belleville
  • Stephens Collision and Glass pours concrete for a new location on US36
  • Depot Market, Courtland, and C&C High Tunnels, Scandia, receive Local Food System grants through the Kansas Department of Agriculture to expand.
  • Participated in a HOME Pilot Program to expand fiber internet along US81 from Salina to Belleville

During the year, Mahin said RCED and the Kansas Department of Commerce and Kansas Small Business Development Center assisted 38 businesses in the planning/start up stage; 19 business-es in the expansion/growth stage; and four businesses in the succession stage to transfer to new ownership.

The Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which provides businesses and individuals a 5-year tax rebate on a sliding scale for qualifying expansion projects benefited 10 residential and one commercial business in 2021.  Since the program was implemented in 2012, 89 projects valued at nearly $12.9 million have been added to the county tax rolls.  That includes 22 commercial projects, 27 ag projects, 36 residential and 15 farm residential projects.

Mahin said the RCED website (www.republiccountykan-sas.com) had nearly 56,000 page views in 2021.  The most popular tabs are for jobs, homes, rentals and business resources.

RCED helped different businesses and entities access federal Covid-19 assistance funds for which they qualified.

“That’s like drinking out of a fire hose,” Mahin said. “Being able to react quickly to those funds is invaluable.”

RCED assisted with six requests for information on property owned by NCK Industrial Development on US81 Highway and helped the City of Belleville receive a $1 million grant to develop the road and infrastructure around the Love’s Travel Plaza site.  One of those projects was to assist with a hotel feasibility study for a future project at the location.

Housing Focus

Housing Focus Mahin said the past several years the RCED has seen a change in dynamics of the organization, particularly as it relates to quality of life issues–and in particular, housing and school issues.

“Lack of housing for all the people who want to live here is a great problem to have, but it’s a problem,” Mahin said.  As of December, the county’s unemployment rate is a low 1.7 percent.   About 27 percent of the county’s workforce lives outside of the county, according to the most recent workforce migration statistics.

“A couple of years ago, there were at least 35 children whose parents worked in Republic County and lived in another county,” noted RCED chair Jimmie Blecha.

On the flip side, about 18.9 percent of the working-age residents in Republic County work outside of the county.

Belleville mayor Adam Robertson said the county’s employment numbers may not include the H-2A US Department of Agriculture temporary workers program.  He estimated 40 or more people are employed in the county under the program.