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Director's Dialogue: Year in Review

By: Erik Pedersen | December 3, 2014
Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge
NetWork Kansas hosted its first Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2014.

Anne suggested I do a year-end wrap-up blog. My first thought was how in the world can I sum up all the tremendous things the E-Community network has done in just one blog. (Actually, truth be told, my first thought today was how nervous I am for deer hunting season in Elk County knowing there's been mountain lion sightings in SE KS... but that doesn't seem like something I can blame the E-Communities for....or can I?). Oh well, here goes... 

From January to October this year, the 44 E-Communities have approved 37 loans totaling $1.12M. That $1.12M has leveraged another $5.9M of additional capital (partner loans, bank loans, etc.). Three more communities were approved to receive additional funds into their E-Community account via Phase II, bringing the total to seven. One more utilized enough loan funds to be approved for Phase III Preferred Lender, bringing that total to two E-Communities.

I can't think of a better way to engage youth than through an entrepreneurship fair and in my humble opinion, our partner communities knocked it out of the park in this area. Several of our E-Communities hosted local E-Fairs and we were lucky enough to judge and participate in many of them. In May, we held the first-ever Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC). 18 business plans were submitted, 20 kids participated, $5,700 of prize money, it was quite a day! Bird City was a wonderful host. In fact, it was such a hit that we're going to duplicate it again this year (May 6th in Leoti) and also have one in the SE KS region, in late April.

The Growing Rural Business class continued to gain momentum. We had two great programs, one in the spring in Ford County and one this fall in Thomas County. All in all, 35 businesses participated in this entrepreneurial certificate program, and we have a line forming of E-Communities that want to host it next year.

The opening sentence in our mission statement is: "To promote an entrepreneurial environment throughout the State of Kansas..." Nothing speaks to that as well as the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program. This was offered in our Wichita (distressed) E-Community in the fall and we had to purchase additional licenses to support the demand. 31 participants, every seat was filled, 8 weeks designed to inspire and engage participants in the fundamental concepts of an entrepreneurial mindset. And a waiting list of 8-10 participants wanting to take part in the next offering.

What I listed above were just some of the initiatives we were able to participate in. I could turn this into an essay if I wanted to also talk about things like the Southeast Kansas Innovation Summit, Reno County Business After Hours, the 12+ E-Communities that are doing E-Accelerator work, the Wine, Cheese and Big Dreams event, the great work being done with the Project 17 effort, the communities working on succession planning, and the dozens of other initiatives, programs and ideas that are being implemented by and in the E-Communities.

Finally, we selected 4 additional E-Communities to partner with: Pawnee County, Girard, Cherokee County and Riley County/Manhattan (distressed). To those four I say welcome to this great group of collaborative, forward-thinking communities. The bar is set high.

Oh, and the wKREDA group is celebrating their 20th year with a Dodge Ball tournament at the December meeting in Russell. It still burns me that Steve gets to attend and not me. Ok, enough venting, back to work.

Happy Holidays!

Erik Pedersen @EPedersenKS

Check back next month for the latest from the Director's seat.