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K-State Today

September 22, 2011



Accelerating growth: Advanced Manufacturing Institute working with key partners on way to boost manufacturing in south central Kansas

By Communications and Marketing

A collaboration of Kansas economic development partners is using a federal grant on a feasibility project to help rural manufacturers in south central Kansas. 

A U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development regional collaboration grant has been awarded to a group led by the Harvey County Economic Development Council, Wichita Technology Corporation and the Advanced Manufacturing Institute at Kansas State University. The group, to also include a number of other local and state economic development partners, will evaluate the feasibility of establishing an innovation accelerator in the region. 

"An innovation accelerator would help increase the manufacturing base in the region, create new jobs and save jobs lost due to layoffs because of the state of the economy," said Jeff Tucker, associate director of the Advanced Manufacturing Institute. "The accelerator would support economic development by increasing the number of business start-ups, expanding current small businesses and keeping youth in the region by providing them technology-based, high-wage job opportunities." 

USDA Rural Development funds will be used to investigate and evaluate market desirability, business viability and technical feasibility of establishing an innovation accelerator. 

"USDA Rural Development's Rural Business Enterprise Grants help facilitate business development and create jobs in rural Kansas communities," said Patty Clark, USDA Rural Development state director for Kansas. "The regional innovation accelerator is a perfect example of the type of cutting-edge regional economic development collaboration that needs to be taking place across the state, and I am excited about the opportunity to support rural Kansas manufacturers by partnering with state and county business leaders." 

The group plans to hire an incubation consultant to conduct the feasibility study, said Mickey Fornaro-Dean, executive director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council. 

"If the study shows that an accelerator is sustainable, a business plan will be developed and implemented," Fornaro-Dean said. "In addition, the economic development team at K-State's Advanced Manufacturing Institute will perform a regional innovation readiness assessment to identify strengths, opportunities and regional assets. AMI also will identify potential innovation services to support the region's manufacturers." 

"Currently, we are working on several regional innovation projects across the state, and this project will allow us to utilize our experience, knowledge and tools to characterize the region's business development environment to benefit Kansas manufacturer's," Tucker said. 

Counties in the feasibility study include Butler, Chase, Harvey, Kingman, Marion, McPherson, Reno, Rice and Sedgwick. 

The Harvey County Economic Development Council Inc. assists its county and the cities of Burrton, Halstead, Hesston, Newton, North Newton, Sedgwick and Walton with economic development, retention and expansion of local industry, recruitment of industrial prospects, formation of new industries, and asset building projects. More information about the council is available online at http://www.harveycoedc.org

The Advanced Manufacturing Institute is a part of the K-State College of Engineering and a Kansas Department of Commerce Center of Excellence and an Economic Development Administration University Center that provides engineering and business services. More information about the institute is available online at http://www.amisuccess.com.