Mark Mingenback stood before the members of the Great Bend Kiwanis Club on Wednesday and asked, “What do you plan on doing in the year 2040?”
The question elicited some chuckles from members — including some who will be over 100 years old two decades from now. Coincidentally, it’s been more than 20 years since Great Bend leaders undertook an extensive “vision process” for the city, Mingenback said.
This year, the Barton County Young Professionals membership came to the conclusion that there needs to be a vision for where Great Bend is going. That led to the creation of the “visioning committee” known as Great Bend - Better than Great.
“We have an extremely vibrant YP group,” Mingenback said. From a show of hands, he estimated that 20 percent of the people at Wednesday’s Kiwanis meeting are also involved in the BCYP.
When the visioning group was formed, Regan Reif was named chairwoman. BCYP membership is open to anyone who lives and works in Barton County and is between the age of 21 and “40-ish.” But “they decided they needed an old guy,” Mingenback said, so he agreed to co-chair the Better than Great project.
The steering committee hired Shockey Consulting. The lead consultant, Sheila Shockey, is in Overland Park but she grew up in Kinsley. That was a bonus for the committee, Mingenback said. “Many rural communities have the same challenges,” he noted. They felt Shockey would understand.
They are finding there is a lot of data available for those who know where to look, he said.
The project is being funded by a grant from the Harms Trust. “It’s all happening without tax dollars,” Mingenback said.
More than 50 people in social services, churches, and large and small businesses joined the steering committee, Mingenback said. In four meetings, the group has made a lot of progress and has tried to identify low-hanging fruit. They are finding people across all sectors tend to name some of the same challenges in the community, such as the need to address the drug problem.
Megan Barfield from the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce said surveys are being used to identify trends that will have the most impact on businesses and individuals, positive and negative, over the next 10-20 years. The surveys can be found on the website www.gbbetter.com. Participants who provide their contact information will be entered to win a $500 Chamber Gift Card. The website also lists the steering committee members and has other information about Great Bend - Better than Great.
Barfield and Mingenback asked Kiwanis members to break into small groups and consider a few of the 30 trends or challenges identified by the steering committee. No matter what issue was addressed — such as water, population decline, the “brain drain” or quality of life — commonalities could be found.
“You notice how the topics are interrelated,” Mingenback said. “It’s all tied together.”
The steering committee hopes to have a document with its recommendations ready to release at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Banquet in February. After that, it will be time for government, businesses and citizens to decide what to do with the visioning committee’s work, Mingenback said. “Does it go on a shelf or become a living document with teeth to work on things we identify?”
Take a survey
Learn more about the Great Bend - Better than Great Bend project and get involved by visiting www.GBBetter.com and taking a survey. There are surveys in English and Spanish for individuals and business people. The surveys will be available through January. Participants who provide their contact information will be entered to win a $500 Chamber Gift Card.
For more information contact the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, 620-792-2401.