What’s The Next Big Thing?

Brainstorming For Local Business

By Fred Arnold Telescope Publisher

Where do we go from here? Can we expand? Maybe there are new opportunities for local and area businesses?

Last week, Republic County Economic Development in conjunction with Network Kansas hosted a market opportunity meeting for county businesses at the Blair Theatre in Belleville. Sarah LaRosh from Network Kansas was a presenter.

She said in analyzing the demographic data Republic County has great potential to be able to capture more money for businesses.

“Because of your community’s relative isolation, you have more ventures relative to your population,” she said. “These characteristics lead to a greater spending capture when compared to communities with larger ventures.”

LaRosh said data points to an additional $51 million that could be spent locally, which is “leaking” out of the county.

“Sometimes communities don’t realize the assets they have,” she said. “Our mission is to focus on economic development in areas like yours.” LaRosh said there are things that make Republic County unique from a business standpoint, and local entrepreneurs need to capitalize on that. It all starts, she said, with identifying potential gaps in goods and services and plugging those holes.

“As a business owner or potential business owner you need to say what else can I do, what more can I offer? Is it in a retail location, a new service?” she asked. LaRosh added small boutiques and niche

stores serve communities like Belleville well. She said, in all probability, the days of a major retail store locating to a rural downtown area are over.

“Your workforce has become a lot more mobile,” LaRosh said. “There are a lot of people driving in and out of Belleville on any given day to go to work, and one place I can see a lot of leakage here at least is in restaurants and hotels.”

County economic development director Luke Mahin told those in attendance that there are several positive signs occurring.

“There is strong evidence to show that our population decline is slowing,” he said. “In the case of Belleville and Courtland populations are actually increasing, which hasn’t happens for a very long time.”

Mahin said, however, one of the key areas that needs work on is housing.

‘Yes, we are growing, but we actually have less available housing in the county than we did a decade ago,” he said. “Thus, numbers we are seeing prove there’s a need, not only for new construction and affordable housing, but there’s a particular void in rentals, for people who don’t know if they want to buy or not.”

At the end of the day the session proved what’s happening in Republic County points to three things: strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. Last week’s session points that all three exist in the area.

“For sure we are seeing more of an upside,” Mahin said. “And we need to get that message out to those who are in business or want to be in business.”

2018 Inflow/Outflow of Workforce in Republic County
2002 Inflow/Outflow of Workforce in Republic County