The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 4, 2012

Economic initiative in Southeast Kansas receives $715,000 federal grant

JOPLIN, Mo. — A $715,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant has breathed new life into Project 17, a Southeast Kansas Economic Development initiative.

Yvonne Hull, executive director of the Coffeyville Chamber of Commerce and president of the economic development group Southeast Kansas Inc., said the grant is welcome.

Gov. Sam Brownback had included $500,000 for Project 17 in his budget proposal, but it wasn’t included in the final budget approved by the Legislature.

The USDA Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge grant winners were announced this week, designed to spur job creation and economic growth in rural regions.

The money will come from two federal sources: $215,000 from USDA Rural Development; and $500,000 from the Economic Development Administration.

It is a three-year grant.

Project 17 involves 17 Southeast Kansas counties: Cherokee, Crawford, Labette, Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Chautauqua, Coffey, Elk, Franklin, Greenwood, Labette, Linn, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson and Woodson.

“We have several assets, but we don’t actually talk with each other,” Hull said. “We have employers who are looking to expand and employees who are looking for jobs, but the skill sets aren’t matched.”

The Project 17 group has identified four areas to address: economic development, health care, leadership and permanent structure.

“This grant allows us to take action on the things we’ve known about for years,” Hull said.

Hull said the grant will allow Project 17 to develop a permanent structure, which may include a director, a staff, or both.

“What that permanent structure is going to look like, I don’t know yet,” Hull said.

Rural Development state Director Patty Clark also praised the project in a news release announcing the grant award.

“USDA Rural Development is pleased to provide financial support, in concert with EDA, to this locally led regional planning effort. The state and local support help capture the federal funds to finance this multicounty, multicommunity collaboration,” Clark said. “Regional planning will help create more opportunities for the skilled work force, a higher quality of life for residents, and a brighter future for the individuals and families that choose to call Southeast Kansas home.”

Hull said more participation from residents is welcome. She said people may sign up at the Project 17 website: twsproject17.org. The “tws” stands for “together we succeed.”

“It’s going to take everyone in the region together to move it forward,” Hull said. “We’re always looking for folks to be involved.”

Other grants

Other grants announced this week went to projects in 12 other states.

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