Regional and Community Development Programs
One of the most successful projects organized by Sunflower is the Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance (WKREDA) www.discoverwesternkansas.com. This group of nearly 55 western Kansas counties works to improve the economic well-being of roughly 350,000 people living in western Kansas. Two of the primary goals of WKREDA are to educate its members about economic opportunities and to work together to formulate legislative positions to influence policy decisions made by our Legislature.
The WKREDA organization focuses its attention on business recruitment by annually attending several national trade shows and career fairs to deliver the gospel about life in rural Kansas. As a result, WKREDA has been instrumental in the creation of many new “mega” dairies. These new dairies have dramatically increased the size of the Kansas dairy herd and promise to result in the construction of new dairy processing facilities in the near future. WKREDA has also been a leader in regional workforce recruitment through its branding of western Kansas.
Sunflower, along with several of our Member distribution cooperatives, maintain active memberships in WKREDA. Sunflower has been dedicated to the success of WKREDA since its inception in 1994 and continues to provide support for the organization.
Electric cooperatives have been making a big difference to local economic development efforts for many years. The cooperative model—built on service before profit—has enabled cooperatives to invest in necessary community projects. The USDA Rural Economic Development Loan (REDL) and Grant (REDG) program (REDLG) has provided Sunflower an avenue to assist with economic health and growth of Kansas communities. This program is available through Sunflower’s Member distribution cooperatives and provides funds to community and economic development projects at zero-percent interest for a ten-year period. The program can fund up to 80 percent of the total project cost and is selected through a competitive process. These funds can be used in two ways: for public purpose projects or for economic development projects that involve new business start-ups or existing business expansions.
For public purpose projects, an applicant can receive zero-interest funds up to $300,000. The applicant is typically a city or county, not-for-profit organization, or medical for-profit business providing service to the community. Examples of successful public purpose projects include the purchase of fire trucks, hospital expansions, and library expansions.
For economic development projects, an applicant can receive zero-interest funds up to $1,000,000. New or expanding businesses are eligible for funds to finance a new business or expansion that results in saving and/or creating new jobs. Examples of successful economic development projects include a new motel, expansion of a tire recycling facility, and the purchase of equipment for a cabinet manufacturer.
As a service to our Members, Sunflower will package the loan application at no charge to the applicant. Please contact your local rural electric cooperative for additional information regarding the program and project eligibility.
Energy plays a vital role in the ability to recruit and retain businesses. Because energy is not only a regional but also a statewide issue facing Kansans, it is important to build relationships with economic developers throughout the state.
Similar to the western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance, The Kansas Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) is an organization of professionals and volunteers involved in economic development in Kansas. KEDA provides its members access to information, tools and networks that enable them to better meet their communities’ needs. In addition, KEDA provides members an opportunity to meet and establish relationships with local, state and regional economic development leaders. KEDA also partners with the Kansas Department of Commerce on a variety of projects, including the LocationOne Information System (LOIS) database.
By maintaining an active membership in regional and statewide economic development associations, we’re able to keep our finger on the pulse of economic development in Kansas communities.
Similar to a network of professionals that focus on local and regional economic development, it is equally important to have a network of professionals within a given industry. The National Rural Economic Developers Association (NREDA) was formed to promote rural development opportunities through electric and telephone cooperatives.
Sunflower and some of its Member distribution cooperatives maintain active memberships in NREDA for the purpose of exchanging ideas and information between association members and for additional access to educational opportunities to encourage professional advancement. Benefits of membership include participation in efforts to further the movement of revitalizing rural America through economic enhancement.