Program that helps rural Kansas businesses will expand

A statewide program started as a pilot aimed at helping rural Kansas communities grow their businesses will expand to add more communities and more companies.

NetWork Kansas officials said Wednesday that the Kansas Economic Gardening Network is taking applications from rural and urban communities to receive assistance that will give selected companies access to a national and regional network of experts in areas such as market research, social media and geographic information systems, or GIS. Through the program, communities can also receive technical assistance for their companies through the Mid-American Manufacturing Technology Center for an additional cost.

Steve Radley, president and CEO of NetWork Kansas, a state-funded entrepreneurship organization, said about 30 companies in communities such as Scott City, Emporia, Paola, Marysville and Pittsburg have participated in the pilot, which began in 2010.

“We’ve had some (companies) that have had almost immediate impact, either to their revenue or (lower) costs,” Radley said.

Radley said he’s hoping to have between 50 and 70 companies participate this year.

Communities apply for the economic gardening assistance and agree to match any funding provided. The assistance can range from $5,250 to $12,250. Economic development officials from communities applying for grants must identify between three and seven businesses that could benefit from participation in the program. Each company receives about $3,500 in economic gardening services from NetWork Kansas and the National Center for Economic Gardening.

If companies want additional assistance from MAMTC, they agree to pay $2,000.

Applications for consideration are due by Oct. 12 and can be obtained at NetWork Kansas’ website,