The Barton County Commission Monday morning approved renewing the county’s membership in the Dodge City-based Great Plains Development Inc., an economic development agency that works with cities and counties by helping with loans to them as well as entrepreneurs.
The commission was also updated on recent programs, changes in community development block grant requirements, CDBG revolving loan fund opportunities and the new streamlined planning services known as “strategic doing” available from GPDI.
“Barton County does two to three times the volume of business as the other counties,” said Bob Wetmore, GPD co-director, of GPD’s 28-county southwest Kansas catchment area. “We’ve done a lot here over the years and we continue to do a lot.”
Since Barton County joined GPD in 1983, there have been 194 loans totaling $54,507,896. These civic projects and new businesses have created and retained 1,113 jobs.
The commission OKed paying the $6,877.25 to dues to the organization. The cost is based on 25 cents per Barton County resident.
Great Plains 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.
But, Wetmore said, more could be done in the county. Where there are loan applications in the works in urban areas, there none out in the rural areas.
“We need to promote it more out in the county,” he said. “It really cuts us off at the knees.”
There are hundreds of thousands of dollars in revolving loan funds available to county residents. They just need to apply, he said.
Great Plains is the lender of last resort, Wetmore said, adding that borrowers must go to banks first. But, if they come to GPD, their applications are rarely rejected.
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.
He also promoted GPD’s new real-time data portal with up-to-date economic information on the member counties, as well as a new online loan application option.
“We just need to find leads in the smaller communities,” Wetmore said.
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.
The loans and grants are available for economic development projects, fire trucks and ambulances, sewers, streets and bridges, libraries and handicapped accessibility.
Not all of the 12 development companies are based on the same dues structure, with some being funded by a mill levy or other means.