K-State, NetWork Kansas announce community, business advancement initiative
MANHATTAN — Kansas State University and NetWork Kansas are partnering to create a statewide network of committed, creative partners to advance community vitality, increase small business start-ups, expand existing businesses and increase direct investment attracted to all 105 counties in the state.
The K-State 105 initiative is centered upon economic growth across all Kansas counties — urban and rural. K-State 105 is dedicated to using intentional strategies focused on diverse, equitable and inclusive solutions that ensure all populations have access to resources.
NetWork Kansas advances communities by supporting entrepreneurship-led economic development. They work with local communities to develop strategies to create new businesses and expand existing businesses that flourish in local, regional, national and global markets.
"We firmly believe that if civic and community leaders are committed to locally driven growth strategies and are connected to a broad range of technical, business and support services, all communities can grow and thrive," said Richard Linton, K-State president.
Through the nationally recognized NetWork Kansas Entrepreneurship Community Partnership, communities will be directly engaged to understand local challenges which might include failing infrastructure, environmentally contaminated buildings or sites, housing, childcare or establishing an entrepreneurial culture. Solutions will be explored by leveraging the existing capabilities of K-State, other regent system institutions, NetWork Kansas and other statewide and regional economic development collaborators.
"We are thrilled to be a partner in K-State 105, which is built on the foundation that entrepreneurs solve community issues and grow local economies," said Steve Radley, NetWork Kansas CEO. "Our 69 entrepreneurship communities work every day to ensure that entrepreneurs get the technical assistance and capital they need to be successful."
While urban and rural communities have similar challenges, including moderate-income housing, childcare and healthcare, there are major distinctions that require different models of engagement. For this reason, the initiative will initially establish two Learn Together community partnerships that will allow it to build effective programs to address the distinct challenges of urban and rural Kansas communities.
The Go Topeka partnership creates countywide economic success for companies and entrepreneurs through the implementation of an aggressive economic development strategy that capitalizes on the unique strengths of the Shawnee County community.
The mission of Go Topeka aligns well with Kansas State University's innovation-generating research strengths. The partnership will aim to increase the number and quality of jobs in the Shawnee country region through supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, especially in animal health, agriculture technology innovation and intersecting industries.
"We are excited to be chosen as the initial urban partner for K-State 105 and are looking forward to expanding our ability to connect the entrepreneurs, startups and existing businesses in our community with the resources available through K-State and NetWork Kansas that support startup activity and help to grow our existing businesses," said Laurie Pieper, Go Topeka vice president of entrepreneurship and small business.
The Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center Inc., or NWKEICI, provides economic and entrepreneurial assistance to businesses in northwest and north central Kansas. The private operating foundation serves 26 counties in the region with various programs.
By working with existing businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the coverage area with targeted programs, NWKEICI strives to reverse the outflow of people, businesses and investment from northwest and north central Kansas. Through its current and future initiatives that extend resources in the region, NWKEICI hopes to increase population, attract investment and foster economic innovation in its coverage area.
"Partnerships in economic development are vital to success," said Scott Sproul, president and CEO of NWKEICI. "We look forward to engaging with the K-State 105 program to help entrepreneurs, existing businesses and communities in northwest and north central Kansas achieve economic growth."
Defined, measurable and meaningful metrics have been established to judge the initiative's progress over time. These metrics are aligned with the K-State Economic Prosperity Plan goals of creating 3,000 direct new jobs and attracting $3 billion in new Kansas investment by 2029.
"This initiative is truly reflective of K-State's land-grant mission to build, support and improve Kansas communities and aims to improve the lives of all Kansans," Linton said.