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Larned Council approves marketing partnership
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Veronica Coons Great Bend Tribune Larned City Council members recognized their Junior City Council cohorts in an end-of-the-school-year ceremony at the start of Monday nights meeting. They were joined by Coordinator Joan Basgall and two graduating seniors who took part in the Junior City Council program six years ago. Since the program began in 2000, 160 sixth-grade students have participated in Junior City Council, according to Basgall, who has been involved with the program since its inception. Front Row: Carson Smith, Cadee Upson, Skye Feldman, Abby Holt, Joan Basgall, Jaidyn Pinkston, Corin Runnels, Mason Burris, Lawryn Harding (not present). Back Row: Councilmember Kim Barnes, Councilmember Sharon McGuinness, Councilmember Jason Murray, Councilmember Dennis Wilson, City Manager Bradley Eilts, Mayor William Nusser, City Attorney Ron Smith, Councilmember Carroll Bennett, Councilmember Gary Rainbolt, Councilmember George Elmore, Councilmember Terry Clark.

LARNED — Pawnee County Commissioner Bob Rein Jr. proposed a marketing partnership among the county, the city, and the Chamber of Commerce Monday night in order to draw new people into the area.
He gave a synopsis of a plan adopted by the county. The commissioners approved an expenditure of $5,000 for Julie Munden to film promotional videos about Larned and Pawnee County. They also approved a $500 a month expenditure for up to 12 months for the social media promotion of these videos as they become available. He asked the city to also contribute up to $500 a month, and will ask the Chamber of Commerce to do the same.
He made the point that the communities recently invested in improvements to Pawnee Valley Community Hospital and built Larned Elementary School in order to draw people to the community, but if people never hear about these investments, they won’t come.
“We need to do a better job of marketing ourselves outside of our community and outside of our county,” he said.
Five videos are planned, with one each focusing on the hospital and the school, another on Larned State Hospital and Correctional Facility, and two more on what Larned and Pawnee County have to offer.
“We have so many good things going for us here, and the citizens of this area have made investments to ensure the future of it,” he said. “We have to tell people about that, and that’s it in a nutshell.”
Rein asked Jason Keeler with Search Solutions LLC. who handles his web and social media marketing for his web-based business. to take on the project, and Keeler agreed to do so for $1,500 monthly, he said. Through EAS of Kansas City, Keeler has worked on campaigns for national brands like Adidas, Rein said.
It’s also one of the firms that Larned recently sent an RFP to develop a comprehensive marketing campaign for the city. He gave an update on the initiative that stems from rumblings at the state level of the possibility of moving services at Larned State Hospital elsewhere in the state in order to better fill open positions. The vision for that campaign also includes video and social media marketing with a focus on the Larned community, but is intended to be all inclusive of the area, he said.
“Is this a throw away of money? Absolutely not,” Eilts said. “This, essentially, would be the appetizer before the main course.”
This proposal will get the ball rolling. If the partnership decides to invest in a bigger and better marketing campaign later, this initiative can either be turned off, or if it’s working well, it can be kept going, Rein added. A monthly report including reach and metrics will be included.
He also applauded the spirit of cooperation that has developed between the city and the county.
Mayor William Nusser asked for a timeline when payments would start. This, in advance of budget work sessions that will begin later this month.
Rein said he anticipated it will be a month and a half to two months before promotion will begin.
When the county commissioners approved the expenditure for the videos, they specified they would have final approval of the content. He offered to allow the city to do the same thing.
Councilperson Kim Barnes brought up a recent Wall Street Journal report about the unemployment rate nationally, currently 2.3 percent, and locally, noting a recent report that employers in some businesses who once had 56 applications per job opening at fast food jobs are now only receiving three.
Rein added he attended the Kansas County Commissioners Conference last week, where he sat in on a discussion about immigration, immigration law and what immigrants bring to the community. He said it was eye-opening, and it prompted discussion of how the population in Kansas is “a flight east,” particularly to cities like Manhattan and Wichita, as well as Johnson and Sedgwick counties. But, while there are people leaving the area, there are cities that are seeing success. Scott City and Garden City have turned economic development around. And while some people are leaving for more urban environs, others are escaping the large population centers of Colorado, moving to places like Larned where they feel more comfortable raising their children, according to Councilmember Dennis Wilson, who shared conversations he’s shared with new residents.
Discussion continued about marketing methods until Nusser asked for a motion to approve the $500 a month spend for up to 12 months. Murray motioned and Bennett seconded, and the motion was unanimously passed.