It’s a marathon, not a sprint

2017 Economic Review First published in the Lincoln Sentinel December 28, 2017

I think we can all agree that economic development doesn’t happen overnight. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”, as the saying goes.  So, with the end of another year upon us, I thought I would do a quick recap of the strides we have made in our marathon towards a stronger county.

Here are a few of this year’s stats:

  • At least 10 new businesses opened in the county this year. (There’s a chance we can squeak out two more by the end of the year but I don’t want to jinx it by including them prematurely.) The new businesses in Lincoln are: Catering with Grace, Mainstreet Loft, Three Amigos Mexican Restaurant, Liz Burt Guest House, Island Daycare, Law Office of B. Truman Steen, and Tangerine Tumbleweed. Two new businesses have opened at Wilson Lake (on our side of the county line) including Hell Creek Cabins and Hell Creek Watersports.  And there is one new hunting lodge business up near Hunter, Huntsmen Lodge.
  • At least three businesses have transitioned to new ownership. In many cases, a business transition is just as important as a new business as it ensures a service to the community continues and we don’t have a new hole in our economy.  Businesses that have transitioned ownership include Lincoln Auto Supply, State Farm Insurance, and DJ Environmental to Reddi Industries.
  • We’ve had at least one business, Lincoln Farm Supply, with a significant expansion as they became a dealer of Versatile equipment.
  • At least seven businesses have undergone building improvements or renovations. These include the USDA/FSA office, the Cook Book House in Barnard, Mainstreet Loft, Liz Burt Guest House, State Farm Insurance, Lincoln Grocery and most recently, Farmway Credit Union.

Looking strictly at jobs data, the county’s unemployment numbers are very low.  According to the Kansas Department of Labor, our unemployment rate for October (the most recently reported figures as I write) was 2.2%.  Last October it was 3.7%.  Our current rate is in line with surrounding counties with Ottawa County’s rate being 2.0%, Ellsworth County being 2.3% and Russell County at 2.7%.  The state rate is 3.0%.

In any marathon, you’ll never get to the 26.2-mile marker finish line if you don’t first pass mile marker #1, then mile marker #2, then #3… The success of each mile is dependent on the work you’ve put in on the previous mile.

That’s the way I feel about the past year’s activities of the Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation (LCEDF).  Besides working with many of the businesses listed above, most of our major activities have been to put us in a good position for the coming year.  Some of these activities include:

  • Worked with the City of Sylvan Grove to apply for a Community Development Block Grant for housing demolition and rehabilitation. Everybody knock on wood that we hear some positive news worth about $300,000 towards the end of January.
  • Grew our E-Community fund through Network Kansas by adding another $33,920 on top of last year’s $80,000. Our E-Community funds can only go towards loans for the creation and expansion of businesses and some very specific services and training opportunities for entrepreneurs and youth. Next year these funds will allow us to hold our first Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in March (think of it as “Shark Tank” for kids) and send several businesses to an intensive “bootcamp” that will train them how to turn their business into a destination.
  • Continued to work with the city, county, and Lincoln Park Manor officials towards a large-scale development that will result in a new nursing home facility within the City of Lincoln’s ‘free land’ area. Now that the location has been firmed up, the rest of the planning work (from grant writing to ground-breaking) can happen.
  • Hired two summer interns through a grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation that created long-term visions for parks and trails and the old Lincoln High School. Momentum has continued to grow on each of these projects as locals are picking up the process where the interns had to leave off.

I love my job and I love working with so many people that have a dream for their community and are willing to put in the long hard work that each mile requires in this marathon.  I think what excites me most about this past year is the position we have put ourselves in for the year ahead.  I already have quite a ‘watch list’ of business activity going and I am looking forward to doing what I can to make all of it happen.

If you have any questions about the stats above or are looking to make the year ahead a good one for your business, 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 785-24-8954, or email me at LcedfDirector@Outlook.com.

Kelly Larson
Executive Director
Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation