At the start of this summer, I honestly had no idea what I had just gotten myself into. My role was to research economic development for Barber County. Quickly, I realized that this was not a one solution topic, as it is extraordinarily broad and an endless project. Because of this, I believe I was given the opportunity to be a self-starter this summer.
I was given a few projects by the County Commissioners at the start of the summer. This included creating a business survey, researching budgets and economic development projects of our “Sister Counties”, and attending seven city council meetings. The business survey was successful with 77 respondents county wide. This information was completely anonymous, showing us and the Kansas Department of Commerce (KDC) the percentage of businesses preparing to spend mass amounts of money, expand or buy new equipment. These are all areas where the KDC may be able to help businesses find money or assistance with their projects. I also created a slideshow to display the “Sister Counties” budgets and economic/community development projects. This project gave me and my supervisors a lot of insight and inspiration to create programs unique to our county. In addition, I attended seven city council meetings, each a different town, with a list of questions regarding their concerns, hopes, and visions for the future. This may have been one of my favorite projects as I was able to work on the ground to hear the voices of our local leaders.
I have attended two webinars this summer about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and How to Build an Economic Development Website. The purpose of this was to stress the importance of an up to date, informative and attractive website. There are too many positive, groundbreaking things happening in rural America, we need to show the world what we have!
Later on, I learned that my role was to start the wave of many changes to be made in Barber County. It’s important to keep up with time, doing everything in your power to stay ahead and make the most of every moment. Barber County is ready for that! In August, there will be a meeting sponsored by the KDC where several county leaders will learn about economic development and several factors that are unique to our communities (housing, business retention, etc.).
My communication has certainly improved over this summer. I have learned the struggle of waiting on responses and creating methods of communication for different demographics. Regarding leadership, I have taken on a project that extends past my internship and requires immense pre-planning. Creating a method of planning and communication in order to keep several parties informed has been a struggle, but has also been very eye opening! I did not necessarily complete my networking goals for out of county contacts, but I did meet my in county goal. In economic development, it is crucial to have feet on the ground speaking to businesses and discussing the future. This summer I met tons of business owners and heard many inspiring stories and hopes for the future of Barber County!
It has been a fabulous summer! Thank you Ogallala Commons, Barber County Commissioners and K-State Research and Extension of Barber County for all of your support and guidance.
Till next time!