Project 17 - Building a Change Platform for Large-Scale Regional Economic Development Engagement


Jeffrey Tucker

Phone: (785) 532-3421

Heather Morgan

Phone: (785) 532-3421

Purpose of the Collaboration:

Since 2011 the Technology Development Institute (TDI), formerly the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, within Kansas State University’s College of Engineering, has been supporting innovation-based economic development initiatives in rural regions and communities of Southeast Kansas. This outreach engagement has resulted in working partnerships with many parts of K-State, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), USDA-Rural Development, the Kansas Department of Commerce, Casey Family Programs (a national child welfare philanthropy), Pittsburg State University, Wichita State University, and multiple other state, regional, and local organizations throughout the state. TDI has engaged students, faculty, and staff in the College of Business, the College of Agriculture, the College of Architecture Planning and Design, College of Human Ecology, College of Arts and Sciences, in addition to the College of Engineering to develop and deploy network-based strategies, tools, and resources to assist Kansas rural communities, businesses, and citizens to improve their lives, communities, and economic competitiveness in the global economy.

Length of Partnership:

6 years

Community Partners:

U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA); USDA-Rural Development; Kansas Department of Commerce; Casey Family Programs (a national child welfare philanthropy); and multiple other state, regional, and local organizations throughout Kansas. The Project 17 region participant counties include Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Coffey, Crawford, Elk, Franklin, Greenwood, Labette, Linn, Miami, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson, and Woodson Counties.

Community Impact:

Project 17 addresses multiple pillars of the region’s economic ecosystem through a grassroots change platform that engages K-State expertise, provides students hands-on learning, and helps local businesses and communities in an innovative, high-impact approach. The collective impact of Project 17 and its partners include engaging over 1,800 citizens, training over 1,000 leaders; leveraging $25.54 million in private investment; assisting 194 businesses; engaging 107 entrepreneurs, retaining 431 jobs, creating 674 new jobs, and anticipating 611 additional future jobs. Through Project 17, the Circles program expanded to four additional communities in the region. TDI, through Project 17, also provides technology development services directly to regional businesses and has created new visualization tools for regional asset mapping and analytics. Project 17 continues to stimulate private sector investment in the region including: the installation of a multi-million-dollar broadband fiber trunk line, increasing job creation and retention, strengthening local food systems, increasing business growth and activity, and expanding civic leadership. Project 17 helped secure a regional federal U.S. Commerce designation giving the region preference points for federal awards and additional technical assistance; assisted PSU to secure a U.S. Economic Development Administration science park planning grant; advocated for Independence Community College to receive a private grant to start a community fabrication lab; and assisted in securing funding from USDA - Rural Development for a new fabrication lab for the Chanute Regional Development Authority. In addition, Project 17 co-sponsored two annual statewide Innovation Summits in the region to raise visibility across the state.

Institutional Partners:

K-State Technology Development Institute; K-State Research and Extension; several K-State colleges and departments including Engineering, Business, Agriculture, Human Ecology; Pittsburg State University; Wichita State University

Institutional Impact:

Project 17 is a change platform for large-scale regional economic development and community engagement with multiple engagement opportunities within the K-State community. Faculty, staff, and students from seven colleges are actively engaged in Southeast Kansas in research and service, working directly within the region. For many faculty and students, Project 17 provides not only an opportunity to expand field experiences in their respective disciplines, but to also experience cross-sector, boundary-spanning research such as the engagement between the Colleges of Agriculture and Business Administration in supporting small food-based businesses in the region or through the joint efforts of the College of Agriculture’s Research and Extension and the College of Human Ecology with regard to workforce re-engagement networks. For TDI, Project 17 has advanced the understanding of how to apply network and innovation-based economic development strategies and the critical elements necessary to build large-scale innovation ecosystems. Each of these opportunities inform faculty and students with practical application of domain-specific knowledge and the opportunity to work in socially complex environments. Project 17 also served as a testbed for advancing research and application in areas such as asset mapping and innovation analytics.

The Project 17 executive director is actively broadening cross-institutional collaborations beyond K-State. Within the region, Pittsburg State University (PSU) has directly benefited from K-State’s long-standing relationships with federal funding agencies in an effort to increase PSU’s success rate for federally-funded project proposals. Other scholarly output beyond awarded/pending federal and state competitive grants includes published articles in leadership journals, numerous newspaper articles throughout the region sharing the successes and efforts with the community at large, a one-hour public radio program involving both K-State and community partners discussing the needs, approaches, and results, testimony to the Kansas Legislature, multiple presentations across the K-State campus with regard to the project and the results to date, co-hosting of two annual statewide Innovation Summits where partners shared their activities, an “Un-conference," and presentations at state and national conferences on topics as diverse as broadband access, poverty, rural economic development, leadership, and public health. In addition, partner organizations regularly share the project and impact within their own professional communities.