By: Ciara Miller
South Central E-Community Manager
Regionalism – that’s a hot topic.
NetWork Kansas launched the E-Community Program in 2007 and since then it has grown from six E-Communities to 69 E-Communities. As the E-Community Program grew, we divided the state into regions. We’ve recently hired two more E-Community Regional Managers to support what are now six E-Community Regions. For the most part, when you’ve worked with one E-Community, you have worked with one E-Community (i.e. you HAVEN’T seen it all).
Each E-Community has so many different variables that make them different. Despite many shared challenges, such as housing, access to childcare, etc., each E-Community is unique, with unique leadership, different personalities, and varying degrees of engagement with entrepreneurship. Still, we have consistently moved over time to viewing the E-Community Partnership as regionally connected rather than a disparate group of individual cities or counties.
However, one thing I’ve learned the most in my role as an E-Community Regional Manager is to connect dots. I don’t know all the answers but someone else might or another community may have worked on solving the same problem. We can’t expect communities to constantly recreate the wheel: we must share insights and things we’ve learned along the way with each other. We have to be okay with saying, “I don’t know, let me check on that” We also must share those resources and communicate regularly. That is how our individual community progress can turn into a powerful tide that raises all boats in our state.
Convincing others to view progress as a shared effort can be challenging. Although some communities embrace the idea of working on a larger scale - focusing more on county-wide efforts rather than individual towns, for example - it can be a struggle to let go of a narrow view of economic development.
However, in the case of the E-Community Partnership, our structure is set up to favor a regional approach. E-Community allocations for loans and programs are made from a pool of funds that serves a region. Although an E-Community’s first loan per fiscal year can be automatically approved, second and additional loans needs to be approved by the Regional Manager first before receiving funds. This helps our E-Community team ensure E-Communities are engaged and funds are being invested throughout a region – not in a single community. This is true for business loans and for program funding. It’s a strategy that produces a bigger impact: and that elusive rising tide.
Let’s keep thinking regionally and share resources to create a rising tide that lifts your community, your county, and the state of Kansas!
About NetWork Kansas:
NetWork Kansas was established as a component of the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004 to further entrepreneurship and small business growth as a priority for economic and community development in the State of Kansas. Backed by more than 500 partners statewide, the NetWork Kansas service promotes an entrepreneurial environment by connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the expertise, education and economic resources they need in order to succeed.
NetWork Kansas facilitates the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem within participating communities through the E-Community Partnership. Contributing factors to successful development include availability of financial capital, support by local leadership and development of educational resources. All of these factors combine to increase entrepreneurial activity in participating towns, leading to increased startup activity, business expansion, job creation and more.
For more information about the Entrepreneurship (E-) Community Partnership, visit www.networkkansas.com/ecommunities or call 877.521.8600.