Barton County will join forces with Great Bend Economic Development Inc. to the tune of $40,000 for a national campaign aimed at bolstering the county’s and Great Bend’s profile, and making them more competitive.
The County Commission approved the funding Wednesday morning for advertising and project development support, doubling what was sought by GBED. While all commissioners favored the initial $20,000 requested, support for the increased amount was not unanimous.
GBED requested the $20,000 to help with targeted advertising to aid in recruiting new businesses and individuals. With county funds included in the overall marketing budget, GBED would have the funding necessary for professionally created video and print campaigns, said GBED President Sara Hayden.
“I would ask that the commission helps us with $20,000 to double our marketing budget for this year’s budget,” Hayden said. The other half of their funds come from the City of Great Bend and private donors.
“Economic development is very important to us,” said District 5 Commissioner Jennifer Schartz. “Because of budget constraints in the past, the county has not really put that put forth a huge effort in economic development.”
So, she really liked the idea of being able to partner with the city “and helping make something moving forward, because whatever is good for Great Bend is good for the entire county,” she said. “I don’t want the other communities to think that we have forgotten them because we have it. But this is an opportunity that we have to make something go forward that hopefully will be very progressive and help our community.”
Hayden stressed that she works for all of the county.
“Great Bend may be at the front of my organization’s name, but I recognize that we are a major part of Barton County,” Hayden said. “I will never turn down the opportunity to help anybody else in the county as well because when one person grows we all grow together. So this really is a county effort and I view it that way 100%.”
Doubling the commitment
Commissioners wholly supported the idea, but it was District 3 Commissioner Shawn Hutchinson who suggested they up the ante an additional $20,000. “This is my idea, it isn’t Sara’s,” he said.
However, “I may be in favor of this. What I am not in favor of is that we talked about the first $20,000 and that’s what I was prepared to vote on,” Schartz said. “I think we need to talk about it a little bit more and give it some thought.”
For her part, Hayden wasn’t going to object.
“Project development could go into any of the large initiatives that we’ve got going right now,” she said. It could be contributed to childcare, housing or entrepreneurship.
“I’ve got to be honest,” she said. “There’s a there’s a million things that we’ve got going right now that we can easily slip $20,000 into to, contributing to that end goal.”
Hutchinson moved to approve the increased amount.
It passed 3-2, with Hutchinson, District 1 Commissioner Kirby Krier and District 2 Commissioner Barb Esfeld voting yes. But, while they both strongly supported the initial $20,000 request, Schartz and Chairman Jim Daily of District 4 voted against it.
“My nay vote isn’t because of what you’re doing,” Daily said. “But an additional $20,000 for what you’re trying to do does need to be, in my opinion, discussed a little more before we take that step.”
How the money will be used
“Some of the things that we’re working on are some of the foundational items that I feel make us competitive in the recruiting world,” Hayden said, noting she had visited with commissioners during a recent study session. Some of these items being housing, childcare, quality of life amenities and entrepreneurship.
“We really recognize that we can do as much as we want on all of these different categories, but if we don’t put the proper time and money and efforts into advertising these, then they’re not going to get anywhere and our recruiting efforts will be a miss,” she said.
“This would give us the capabilities to do a video campaign, a targeted campaign, that would be outside of the state of Kansas so that we can target those areas that are really seeing a fluctuation in their in their population right now,” she said. Some businesses may be considering rural communities where they haven’t before, and Hayden wants to make sure Great Bend and Barton County are in their minds.
“It’s a private, nonprofit organization, it’s publicly and privately funded, which is unique,” Hutchinson said of GBED. “A lot of times, this doesn’t work in larger communities, but this isn’t Johnson County, this is Barton County. I think we can make it work.”
He believed that if the county or other governmental organizations step up and contribute, private donors may step back.
“We have somebody out there that is out there really beating the streets, and we don’t have to hire an additional person at the county level that would cost us more resources,” he said. Instead, they can dedicate some of those resources to what GBED is doing.