In an update to the Great Bend City Council Monday night, Bob Wetmore, co-director of Dodge City-based Great Plains Development Inc., said his agency continues to work for the community as he outlined the services GPD provides. This is a non-profit economic development agency that works with cities and counties by helping with loans to them as well as entrepreneurs.
Great Plains includes a 28-county Economic Development District covering southwest Kansas and is one of 12 similar development companies that cover all of Kansas. They are funded by federal Housing and Urban Development money through the Kansas Department of Commerce.
“So think of us as the one-stop shop for municipal grants, all the different loan funds,” he said. “We just wanted to thank you for helping support us over the years.”
Great Plains is supported through voluntary dues memberships. Barton County, which also utilizes GPD assistance, and the city split this cost evenly with the total coming to $3,442 each.
Basically, GPD assists member counties and cities, with Small Business Administration loan applications, community development block grant writing and economic development revolving loans, Wetmore said. It does not hold the money in accounts, it just counsels applicants on where and how to get it.
Other services include working visits with members and handling the accounting and reporting requirements that track the use of the funds. This includes keeping up with regulatory changes at the state and national levels.
“We wear two hats,” he said of what they do for the city. These include the city’s Community Development Block Grant hat and the CDBG Revolving Loan Funds.
“Most importantly, we work with Sara (Arnberger, president of Great Bend Economic Development Inc.),” he said. This involves Network Kansas and Entrepreneurship Community (E-Community) funds. There are also over 50 other Network Kansas loan funds they can pick from.
“In 2021 and early 2022, we had over 220 loan inquiries seven applications in two loan awards that qualified for local and regional funds,” he said. And, they are currently working on three loan projects with Arnberger that are about ready to go to loan review.
On the Community Development Block Grant Revolving Loan Fund the city has through GPD, Custom Re-Bath has paid off its loan. And there are six loans using the funds, two paid off and for four are current.
Wetmore said the city actually has two funds administered through GPD, but they are treated as one. The total available in the funds is over $96,000.
Through multiple local, state and federal partnerships, GPD has connections to many resources including city and county governments, local banks, Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas Small Business Development Corporation business planning, Economic Development Administration, Small Business Administration, United States Department of Agriculture, and NetWork Kansas.