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Ellinwood-Claflin join forces to combine chamber
new kl chamber of commerce
Mike Urban and Debbie Urban draw for prizes at the Eastern Barton County Community Collaboration Project meeting in Claflin on Friday morning. The meeting rolled out the first joint chamber event between Ellinwood and Claflin. - photo by KAREN LA PIERRE

CLAFLIN — In an agreement designed to be mutually beneficial, the Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce and Claflin have joined forces to promote rural Kansas, market events and promote businesses.
“Together we can do a lot,” said J. Basil Dannebohm, Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce administrator, at the chamber coffee on Friday. “We can collaborate for the common good and make a bigger impact. It’s important to know your neighbors and work with them to promote our area.”
Dannebohm added that some rural communities are falling apart, while others are thriving. He encouraged those who grew up in the area and have businesses that don’t require walk in traffic necessarily to move back to eastern Barton County. Call centers and technology were two potential areas of growth highlighted.
Ellinwood has seen renewed vibrancy in the community with the recent reopening of the Historic Wolf Hotel and new businesses downtown. Claflin volunteers worked together to revamp the former Claflin Elementary School into a recreation center, and have tentative plans for a museum and a business tenant. In Claflin, plans are in the works for a coffee shop.
Dannebohm thought of the combination nine months ago and approached County Commissioner and Claflin resident Don Cates. They started discussing the idea and brought in the Claflin mayor.
 “I’ve seen what a chamber of commerce can do for communities,” said Cates. “I’ve often wished Claflin could have a chamber. When Basil mentioned this to me, I viewed this as mutually beneficial. I see lots of possible gain and have a hard time seeing anything we have to lose.”
Two members of the board for the Ellinwood Chamber have been added to represent Claflin, Becky Wasson and Randy Oeser. They will have a term of nine months. New board members will be elected after that time and serve a three year term.
Wasson said that she wants to be a cheerleader for Claflin and the businesses there. She has come up with 65 businesses from Claflin so far.
She said that with the consolidation of the schools several years ago, she has seen vibrancy and growth for the students and would like to see the benefits extended to the rest of the community through the chamber collaboration.
Oeser also would like to see cooperation extended to all of the rural communities in the area for the well-being of all instead of competition.
“It’s nothing but positive,” said Fred Beck, owner of Classic Well Service of Claflin. Beck graduated from Claflin schools and thought the combination was a positive direction for the community.
“We want Ellinwood people to shop in Claflin and Claflin people to shop in Ellinwood,” continued Dannebohm. “We’ll pool interests to make it work while celebrating our unique and separate identities. My commitment is to protect and promote rural businesses and look out for their best interests.”