Listening tour brings Rogers to north central Kansas
Tours of area communities, businesses, industries and tourist attractions, along with roundtable discussions were part of Kansas Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers's visit to north central Kansas Thursday.
Rogers was joined by staff members and area community leaders for Office of Rural Prosperity Listening Tour.
The new Office of Rural Prosperity, which was approved for $2 million in funding in the state's fiscal year 2020 budget, is dedicated to improving life in rural Kansas. It is guided by the blueprint created by Governor Laura Kelly, Lt. Governor Rogers and Secretary of Commerce David Toland which includes developing rural housing, revitalizing main street corridors, investing in rural infrastructure, supporting rural hospitals and medical professional recruitment, making state government work for Kansas, incentivizing active tourism and supporting agribusiness.
Tour stops have included Nickerson, Atchison, Colby, Phillipsburg, Winfield, Lindsborg, Garnett, Independence, Ulysses and Concordia.
“We really feel like rural Kansas has not had a seat at the table for a long time. There is a lot of focus that goes to our urban neighbors and not to rural Kansas and small town Kansas,” Rogers said during the tour stop in Concordia, “The governor really wants to make sure where somebody lives they have access to the things that are most important, to have a vibrant community. So we are out learning, listening directly to we can put some of those things to practice.”
Rogers said what they are finding is they can share the stories with other communities the things that are really going well and can determine what are the things that are standing in people's way so they can fix those.
“We can't necessarily fix it all, because there are going to be things that are federal, there are going to be things that are local. If there are things standing in their way we want to fix those,” Rogers said, “It really gives us an opportunity to hear firsthand from hundreds of Kansans. The evening events are great, but these activities during the day really give us a great view of what is going on and particularly the stories to tell. Some of the things shared today were great so that other communities can learn from Cloud County and Republic County so if they want to do some of the same things they kind of know where to start and who to contact.”
The tour, which was co-sponsored by Cloud County Tourism and Republic County Economic Development, began with a trip to the Jamestown Marsh and Wildlife Area.
Tour stops in Republic County included the Kansas Bostwick Irrigation District, downtown Scandia and the C&C High Tunnel Farm, Buffalo Apartments in Belleville, downtown Belleville, the Belleville High Banks race track and the NCK Free Fair.
In Cloud County, the tour made stops at the POW Camp, Concordia Museum, downtown Clyde, Seifert's Jewelry, Clyde Automotive, Clyde Ideal Market, Clyde Hotel, Gerard Tank & Steel, Concordia Technologies, downtown Concordia, Moody Hue Studio, Britt's Fountain and Gifts and Cloud County Community College.
There was a roundtable discussion at Concordia City Hall with area leaders.
“I got to see some more I hadn't seen before, the local businesses, local producers for fruits and vegetables, the irrigation system, the things that were going on in small towns. The main streets were really interesting in how they have been kind of turned around from original use to again bringing people in from other communities to shop and to spend money,” Rogers said.
Rogers said we have to make sure to let the urban neighbors understand how important rural Kansas is.
“If rural Kansas is suffering then urban Kansas will suffer as well,” Rogers said.
The tour concluded with small group discussions at Cloud County Community College.
Tour stops are scheduled for Sabetha on Monday and Dodge City next Wednesday.
Once the tour has concluded, Rogers and his team will put together reports for each city and for the state as a whole, and it will be presented to the governor and to legislators.
“We assume there will be conclusions, things we need to address,” Rogers said, “The legislature might be involved at that point.”
Rogers expects the report to be released sometime in early November or December.
“Some of the things will probably have to be included in budgets in January and then we will be ready to report in legislative committee hearings right away,” Rogers said.