The Kansas Department of Commerce announced today that an initiative to spur investment, economic development and job growth in a 17-county region in southeast Kansas has received a $715,000 matching federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. This funding is in addition to $1 million worth of leadership training for the initiative from the Kansas Leadership Center that was previously announced in March.
The “Together We Succeed: Southeast Kansas Economic Improvement Initiative” – more commonly called Project 17 – will be managed by southeast Kansas stakeholders and in cooperation with Kansas State University’s Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI) and the Kansas Department of Commerce.
The goal of Project 17 is to create and sustain well-paid jobs in advanced manufacturing and other sectors in southeast Kansas. The initiative will involve local stakeholders throughout the region, who will develop a strategic plan that identifies opportunities for investment and economic development assets in the region and then will link those opportunities and assets to businesses and other resources in the area.
The counties involved in Project 17 are Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Coffey, Crawford, Elk, Franklin, Greenwood, Labette, Linn, Miami, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson and Woodson.
“Southeast Kansas has suffered greatly in the recession,” said State Sen. Jeff King of Independence, one of the key leaders of the Project 17 initiative. “Only by working together for local solutions can our region create the jobs we need to get people get back to work in southeast Kansas. I’m proud to have the state of Kansas as a partner in this important effort to create new, high-paying local jobs.”
“I’m extremely excited about this news and commitment of funding,” said Yvonne Hull, executive director of the Coffeyville Area Chamber of Commerce and president of Southeast Kansas Inc. “For many years, Southeast Kansas has been the weakest link in the state, and the Project 17 initiative is a real, major effort to make this region the strongest link in the state.”
Hull said the Project 17 team would begin immediately to identify assets and resources in the region and start developing the strategic plan.
“I want to thank Senator King for keeping this important project alive,” said Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George. “Jeff, the other three state senators involved in this effort, and the rest of the Project 17 team have been great to work with, and I’m pleased that the Department of Commerce can partner with southeast Kansas to help them bring economic development and job growth back to the area.”
USDA announced there were 62 applicants nationally for Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge grant funding, and 13 projects were picked. For more information about Project 17, go to www.twsproject17.org.