These first few weeks as president of Great Bend Economic Development have been an absolute whirlwind of information and introductions. Primarily, my focus continues to be on meeting as many people as possible to promote collaboration and communication. I am keeping the community’s thoughts and recommendations on my front burner.
I also have sought mentorship outside of Great Bend to glean different perspectives. Fortunately, I found mentors at Finney County Economic Development and Great Plains Development.
Gathering information from many resources is vital to setting the stage for Great Bend’s future. For example, our website will include all relevant data to attract outside businesses and I have created a system for our real estate agents that can help ensure we promote all available commercial property.
I have been energized and genuinely humbled by the community’s support and kindness. Our city, county, workforce, chamber of commerce and other components are ready to collaborate to see Great Bend realize its potential.
Our community is hungry for transparency and communication. I share the mission of local government and other entities that do a great job of providing that transparency. This is always at the top of my priority list.
However, there will be times when I just cannot share details. But I will always do my best to share as much as I can.
I have been fortunate to find several things to sink my teeth into at this early stage. For instance, I am working side-by-side with the Golden Belt Community Foundation by promoting its Come Home Reverse Scholarship.
This is a recruiting tool to locate local graduates and encourage those with essential job skills to come home and fill gaps in the workforce. Also, I am collaborating with the chamber to bring an educational business program to town that challenges our youth and helps prepare them for a successful future.
Local businesses are seeing both sides of the COVID-19 impact. Some have lost a lot and some are thriving. I am incredibly proud of businesses that demonstrate a willingness to adapt and a determination to seek creative solutions.
During my introductions about town, I have talked to business owners/operators who are very excited about our new economic-development focus. It has been my privilege to meet them and I am eager to keep the conversation going with others.
It is important to mention that economic development is so much more than seeking new businesses. Yes, recruitment is always part of the mission. But the current goal is helping existing businesses realize their potential to expand and add jobs, while seeking ways for local citizens to create new ventures.
Our mutual goal is to improve quality of life, pay living wages and develop the workforce to operate at a higher level.
To those I have met, I cannot thank you enough for your invaluable support and ideas. To those I have yet to meet, I look forward to the day. Working together, we will accomplish so many wonderful things for this city we all love. I am thrilled to be part of it.
Sara Hayden is the President of Great Bend Economic Development.