What do we want Great Bend to be in the future? How do we get there?
Looking 20 years down the road, these are the questions Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development and the Barton County Young Professionals members asked themselves. These sparked the chamber-YP joint community vision project known as Great Bend – Better than Great which got underway last fall, said Mark Mingenback, who served as GBBG Steering Committee co-chairperson along with Regan Reif.
He and Reif were addressing the Great Bend City Council Monday night as he unveiled the comprehensive plan. The committee is also planning a community meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Great Bend Events Center to introduce the 50-plus-page vision.
“It’s been a long process,” Mingenback said. “But, we have come to a time where we have a map to go forward.”
Through the winter, spring and summer, the community was invited to participate and share their perspectives, Reif said. Over 200 people participated in two community meetings, and the Steering Committee of over 50-60 community members from the public, private and non-profit sectors held five meetings, and over 500 residents voiced their opinions through community and business surveys.
Mingenback and Reif also met with businesses and civic clubs.
Sheila Shockey, president of Shockey Consulting, a Lenexa company specializing in strategic planning for rural communities, was picked to facilitate the process. A $50,000 grant from the Harms Trust funded it.
This community-led project produced a tag line and logo, resulting in the new branded identity.
“Our Community Vision Plan is a description of what Great Bend could look like and how it might feel in the future,” the plan reads. “It is intended to offer future opportunities and be the path for the continued success of our community over the next 10 to 20 years, guiding the decision-making of our government, businesses, and citizens according to the stated goals and objectives of the community.”
After a year, they arrived at the following mission: “In 20 years, we are a diverse community of welcoming, engaged people leading Great Bend to shine as a regional economic, educational, and cultural center offering an energetic and inclusive experience built on a unique community spirit.”
The six goals outlined in this plan are all of equal importance to the prosperity of Great Bend, the plan reads. “We recognize that they are interconnected on so many levels and that each contributes in their own way to positive improvements for our community.”
These goals include:
• Diversify the Great Bend economy.
• Increase the pull factor.
• Increase the number of living wage jobs.
• Increase the education and training attainment level.
• Reduce the percentage of population living below the poverty level.
• Improve the health and safety of the community.
It also looks at ways to “change the conversation.” These include:
• Gather community together.
• Improve communication.
• Overcome cultural barriers.
• Close the generation gap.
• Grow the workforce of the future.
• Improve mobility and accessibility.
• Explore new opportunities.
“The document launches in to in-depth and detailed ways to achieve these goals,” Mingenback said. There are also time lines and subcommittees being held accountable for these goals.
It addition, the report includes a wide variety of statistics, giving a baseline for where Great Bend stands now.
Some of things outlined in the plan can be implemented by next year, he said. Others won’t be realized until 2040.
This accountability, he said, will keep this from winding up on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.
“Implementation of this plan in an effort to achieve our goals will not happen overnight,” the plan reads. “However, we can take initiative and begin tomorrow by starting the conversations and laying the necessary groundwork. This will require collaboration – working with our neighbors, extending a hand to a new face, connecting agencies of similar interests – a proactive spirit and approach, and most importantly, a united community to create a bright future for Great Bend.”
The summary and entire report can be viewed at www.gbbetter.com/resources.
Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance
Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:
• Mayor Joe Andrasek named Barry Bowers and Jolene Biggs the city’s members of the Great Bend Economic Development Inc. Board. Also at the meeting, Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Board Chair AJ Chrest announced Mark Calcara and Mark Chalfant as the chamber’s representatives.
The four will now meet to select a fifth, at-large, board member.
• Heard the presentation of the final version of the Great Bend Better than Great visioning project from Megan Reif and Mark Mingenback.
• Approved a letter of support for a Sunflower Diversified Services Kansas Department of Transportation grant application so the agency can continue and expand its general transportation program at the request of Sunflower Executive Director Jon Prescott.
The Barton County Commission Monday morning also approved letters of support for the project. (See County Commission story for more details).
• Approved an ordinance allowing micro trucks on streets in city limits. At a previous meeting, the Governing Body directed that an ordinance be prepared to allow the registration and operation of micro utility trucks in city limits. The parties requested that the Dodge City ordinance be followed, said City Attorney Robert Suelter.
• Approved a contract with Burns and McDonnell, a Kansas City, Mo., engineering firm, to inspect the Great Bend Municipal Airport runway improvements funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation. The cost is $21,075.
• Approved a bid from Circle C Pavers, Goddard, to tackle a portion of street crack sealing work not to exceed $50,000. This will focus mainly on the center part of town.
• Heard a report from City Administrator Kendal Francis. He focused on on-going street and water line projects.