Kansas State launches statewide partnership to leverage expertise in economic development

Underlying goal of land-grant university: 3,000 jobs, $3 billion investment by 2030

By: - January 17, 2023 12:08 pm
Kansas State University president Richard Linton said Tuesday the university formed an alliance with NetWork Kansas to provide economic development expertise to communities in all 105 counties. The program, "K-State 105," is designed to aid small business startups and existing companies. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas State University president Richard Linton said Tuesday the university formed an alliance with NetWork Kansas to provide economic development expertise to communities in all 105 counties. The program, “K-State 105,” is designed to aid small business startups and existing companies. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas State University launched a project to expand upon the traditional land-grant mission by aggregating entrepreneurial expertise to accelerate growth of business startups and existing companies in communities throughout the state’s 105 counties.

K-State president Richard Linton said the work would mesh with the university’s plan to create in Kansas 3,000 jobs and attract $3 billion in investment by 2030. This represents KSU’s response to a push by the Kansas Board of Regents to make state universities more robust drivers of economic activity. The university announced the “K-State 105” alliance with the nonprofit NetWork Kansas to give rise to a statewide economic development apparatus providing business owners with better access to expertise, education and economic resources.

“This initiative is truly reflective of K-State’s land-grant mission to build, support and improve Kansas communities and aims to improve the lives of all Kansans,” Linton said. “We firmly believe that if civic and community leaders are committed to locally driven growth strategies and are connected to a broad range of technical, business and support services, all communities can grow and thrive.”

Linton said KSU’s statewide extension service obligations in each county meant the university was “impeccably positioned to be a leader in strengthening and building new relationships.”

The entrepreneurial effort would seek to meet community needs tied to access to capital, childcare, housing, infrastructure and technology, he said.

Cheryl Harrison-Lee, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, said the "K-State 105" economic development initiative "holds great promise for Kansas businesses and communities. The objective is to improve economic development to communities large and small in all 105 counties. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
Cheryl Harrison-Lee of the Kansas Board of Regents said the “K-State 105” economic development initiative “holds great promise for Kansas businesses and communities.” The objective is to assist communities large and small in all 105 counties. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Steve Radley, chief executive officer of NetWork Kansas, said 98.6% of Kansas businesses had less than 100 employees and those companies represented two-thirds of all jobs in the state. The statistics illustrate the imperative of shaping economic development activities to meet local community challenges, he said.

“If you think entrepreneurship isn’t important,” Radley said, “then you’re in the wrong state. Entrepreneurship and small business is the lifeblood of the state.”

K-State and NetWork Kansas recognized the distinction between needs of urban and rural counties by engaging in partnership agreements with the local economic development agencies Go Topeka and the Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center.

In Shawnee County, the objective would be to increase the number and quality of jobs in animal health, agriculture technology innovation and industries tied to both. The Innovation Center, a private foundation serving 26 counties west and north of Salina, intends to increase the region’s population, foster business innovation and attract new capital investment.

“Partnerships in economic development are vital to success,” said Scott Sproul, president of the Innovation Center. “We look forward to engaging with the K-State 105 program to help entrepreneurs, existing businesses and communities in northwest and north central Kansas achieve economic growth.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

MORE FROM AUTHOR