A Great Bend native has returned to her roots to serve as the new president of Great Bend Economic Development Inc.
Sara Hayden recently accepted the position. Her start date is Aug. 3.
Some long-time Great Bend residents may remember Hayden’s grandfather, Wayne Becker, and great-grandfather, Harold Becker. Becker Tire was a Great Bend success story for decades; WHB Rental is still a family-owned business.
Another grandfather, Jim Hayden, lives here; he managed Sears for many years and later operated Alliance Insurance with Sara’s dad, Randy.
“The influences I had growing up with these successful businessmen instilled in me a certain mindset - go after my dreams and accomplish great things,” Hayden said.
This personal history, combined with her academic and professional background, prepared Hayden for the job, she noted.
“I acknowledge that I chose a strange degree path after high school,” Hayden laughed. “But my degree in musical theatre from Friends University prepared me for an economic-development position more than you would think.
“I learned how to present myself in virtually any situation and it gave me confidence,” she explained. “In this changing environment, this confidence gives me the ability to adapt to new situations.”
Hayden’s professional background includes positions in management and retail, as well as working with the public and local officials.
For instance, she was administrative assistant at The Boulos Company in Portland, Me. “Because Boulos is a commercial real estate company, it gave me a bit of economic-development experience. We reached out to businesses that were seeking commercial properties.”
Hayden also served as assistant store manager at Company C, a Portland home design and décor business; and sales manager at bebe in Chandler, Ariz., a retail clothing store.
Most recently, Hayden’s title at The Buckle in Hutchinson was area manager/regional event coordinator.
“In event planning, you learn the importance of collaboration,” she said. “For example, Hutch is a unique market. We collaborated and brought businesses from the mall and downtown together, uniting the community.”
As Hayden begins meeting with local entrepreneurs, she will emphasize that business retention and expansion are at the top of her list.
“Retention and business expansion are always important but even more so because of COVID-19,” she said. “We need to discover what local businesses need so they can grow. Smaller successes are often the best successes.”
Hayden noted she has wanted to move back to her hometown “for quite a while now. I can remember in high school my classmates and I wanting to move to the big city.
“But you know what? I learned from living in and near big cities just how wonderful smaller towns can be. Relationships are important but they are not easy to build in bigger cities. We can build relationships in our smaller-town environment. You cannot beat small-town charm.”
Mark Calcara, GBED board chairman, said the board again “looked for someone with passion and dedication to lead our economic-development efforts. We found that in Sara. Her roots run deep here and we know she is committed to Great Bend’s growth and prosperity.”
Hayden replaces Jessica Milsap who resigned to pursue another career.