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New Chamber, PCEDC exec has plans, ideas
paw courtlandholman
Courtland Holman relaxes in his office at 502 Broadway in Larned, offices of the Chamber of Commerce and the Pawnee County Economic Development Commission. The California native began work here Aug. 3. - photo by JERRY BUXTON Great Bend Tribune

(And) commitment, the headline was supposed to say, but there was not room.

Courtland Holman, the "new guy in town" with (at least) two hats to wear, so to speak, has hit the ground running without looking back.

The new executive director of the Larned Area Chamber of Commerce and the Pawnee County Economic Development Commission has lots of ambition for the town and area, and great amounts of energy and enthusiasm for improving the economy and yes, even enjoyment of life in the area. Affordable rental housing for newcomers, jobs, recruitment of new businesses and retention of businesses and industries already here are some of the key items on "his plate."

He hopes to persuade area farmers to join the Chamber. Agriculture is one of the largest independent industries in the community, he points out. Without farmers, Pawnee County would suffer greatly. He noted that farmers are often up at 4 a.m. and work until late at night, during their several busy seasons.

"And we have the hospital facility, the co-op, but farming is a major creator of income. Farmers’ support will help generate the functions and the economic development of the county. We want to get industry in here that supports your business," he’ll say to farmers. "Need a part? Get it here in Pawnee County, not in Hutchinson or Great Bend. Time is money."

Industries/businesses must be brought in that will pay a living wage, plus benefits, per person.

Ten dollars per hour will not suffice, he says. "You want to keep happy, long-term employees, well-trained, etc. A living wage equals good profit for the owner."

The monthly Chamber newsletter will resume publication. "We will get the functions going that have been part of the community, and expand the services provided — to the county and the outlying areas. ... I expect to have help from other groups, too, such as the Chamber Ambassadors.

"We need to pull together, get our programs back into form. We’ll need a ‘restart’ on some, because the position (his twin posts) was vacant" for quite some time, Holman said.

In a recent interview, Holman said he doesn’t know with total certainty "what my predecessors have done, but" what he is going to do with citizens, the Larned City Council and Larned City Manager Don Gaeddert will grow the town, obtain new businesses, retain those already here, if they’re struggling to get by, or if they want to expand.

His efforts will be directed at all of Pawnee County, including Burdett and Rozel, and even Kinsley.

Baby boomers are retiring in pretty "healthy" numbers in this area of central Kansas. This will make for a good opportunity for an active "55 and over" community, Holman said. Older adults may choose to retire here, or stay in business, but "move to a better lifestyle in a lower-costing area. They might purchase or rent a home, and have a lot of disposable cash to rely on — to shop, live, travel, as they so choose.

"And this will help our hospital systems and the medical community."

Active adult communities are a very good thing, he says. Children and grandchildren want to be near their parents and grandparents. This in turn, will bring "jobs, entrepreneurs and a better shopping base — office, industrial and retail."

"All businesses that deal with Larned: Farmers, businessmen, home-based businesses — I need your support in the form of a (Chamber) membership to help fund our programs," he said.

He also hopes to grow (increase) the area population "to allow us to bring in goods and services. I see that the area has a lot of unfilled positions. But also, at this office, we get up to six people a day looking for a rental house or apartment.

"We need 50 to 75 two- and three-bedroom family rental apartments in Larned. There are lots of houses available, but not enough rentals. People coming in cannot afford to buy a house, but can rent.

He hopes existing businesses can be persuaded to be open longer in the late afternoon/early evening. Customers, in general, get off work at 5 p.m. They won’t go to another city to shop, they will shop with you if you are open on a consistent basis. Merchants can train customers to rely on their being open certain definite, consistent hours.

Holman’s wife, Christine, works for Larned’s USD 495 as a paraprofessional, helping autistic children. She has a bachelor of science degree in Child Development. Their daughter, Katrina, is a senior at Larned High School, and son Alex is a college student in California, and works at a dairy in the Golden State.

(Editor’s Note: More about Holman in Part 2 of this story, coming soon in

The Tribune.)