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Governor Kelly Announces More than $8M to be Invested in Digital Opportunities Governor Laura Kelly announced today that Kansas is receiving $8.2 million to begin implementing the Kansas Digital Equity (DE) Plan, which recently received federal approval. This announcement solidifies the state’s commitment to transform the landscape of high-speed internet connectivity and digital opportunity across Kansas. Nominations Open for 2024 Minority, Women Enterprise Development Awards Today Lieutenant Governor and Department of Commerce Secretary David Toland announced a call for nominations for the 2024 Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Awards. These annual awards are one way the agency acknowledges and observes the growing impact that minority- and women-led companies have on their communities and the Kansas economy. Governor Kelly Announces KMW to Invest $105M in Sterling, Create 251 New Jobs in Kansas Governor Laura Kelly today announced that KMW, a precision manufacturer of agricultural front loaders, backhoes, and other attachments, will invest $105 million to construct a new North American headquarters and state-of-the-art production facility in Sterling. The venture will create 251 new jobs, resulting in a local workforce of 485. Commerce Celebrates National Community Development Week The Kansas Department of Commerce is joining other organizations and communities across the state in commemorating National Community Development Week. The annual event, which this year is April 1-5, shines a spotlight on the transformative impact of community development initiatives and collaborative efforts that drive positive local change.  View All

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Rural Champions

A network of devoted Rural Champions working to strengthen Kansas communities.

Developed by the Kansas Department of Commerce’s Office of Rural Prosperity (ORP), in collaboration with the Kansas Sampler Foundation (KSF) and the Patterson Family Foundation, this program will address critical public needs in rural communities and build capacity moving forward.

The Rural by Choice Champions program is designed to create a network of grassroots individuals who possess the necessary tools to resolve critical community needs in a quick and effective manner. These Rural Champions will receive strategic training, compensation, and will be connected with resources to assist them.

Moving the needle towards rural prosperity.

The need for the Rural Champions program was identified in the Power Up & Go report through surveys and interviews of more than 400 rural Kansans under the age of 40 as something that would “move the needle” toward success. Many of those individuals wanting to make a difference are volunteers who are passionate about their communities but unable to take on a community improvement project without receiving appropriate resources, training and compensation.

The Rural Champions program removes the funding gap for those passionate rural dwellers by connecting them with resources that will help them accomplish their critical community project.

Applications opening soon and will close until July 12th. A webinar will be held to discuss the application, grant availability and eligibility, program process, as well as answer any questions. Applicants that submit before June 12th can request review of the application.

In many cases for rural communities, the lack of capacity in human capital prohibits critical needs from being addressed. The Rural by Choice Champions program has provided the support needed to fill the gap in driving successes throughout Kansas. The Rural Champions program is creating a network of grassroots champions tackling needs that have been identified by the communities themselves.

Learn more about Rural Champion Projects

The Rural Champion is someone identified and sponsored by a host organization in their community to take on a project that will have lasting impact. The selected twelve took on various projects that have been evidenced by need across the state. The processes that the Rural Champions utilized has been captured, creating additional roadmaps for change that other rural communities can then follow to do similar work.  A highlight of each of these projects can be found in the 2023 Rural Champion Project Guidebook. In the sections below you can read more information about each of the project.

Champions will continue to utilize the #ruralbychoice social media campaign to highlight events and successes. Be sure to follow them and keep informed as projects continue to move forward.

Community Development
Placemaking & Recruitment
Entrepreneurship
Childcare
Housing
Wellness

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