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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • 'Planting seeds' Officials talk economic development

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  • Uncertainty is inherent in agriculture. Every year, farmers plants seeds in their fields, but the quality of those crops is dependent on factors outside the farmer's control: how much rain falls, how cold it gets in the winter, and how hot it gets in the summer.
    Yet even when there is a bad year, and the crops fail, farmers have to get back out in the field and plant seeds again, trusting there will be a good harvest in the long run.
    It's an analogy outgoing board president Dennis LeFevre and incoming board president Allen Schrag both used to refer to economic development at the Harvey County Economic Development Council's annual meeting Thursday evening.
    LeFevre said the time and dollars communities invest in economic development are like the seeds farmers plant in fields.
    "Some years are better than others," LeFevre said. "But we have to continue to plant seeds every day."
    "It's all about taking risks," Schrag added. ".. If we hadn't planted the seeds, we would have nothing."
    Although there are dry times when the economy is struggling, LeFevre encouraged local businesses and others working in economic development to keep trying. He said Harvey County has the benefit of communities who are willing to work together — which isn't the case everywhere in the state.
    The EDC's recent annual report highlighted some of the growth that has taken place in Harvey County the past 12 months. IMMI celebrated its grand opening in Burrton in October 2012. The company designs, tests and manufactures advanced safety systems for buses, child seats, and military and commercial vehicles. Legg Co. of Halstead, Future Foam of Newton, and Martin Machine & Welding of Halstead expanded, and Excel Industries of Hesston won the Governor's Award for Exporter of the Year. AGCO Corp. is nearing completion of its new paint facility, an investment of more than $40 million.
    "EDC has continued to remain focused on growing jobs and increasing the tax base of the communities we live and work in," LeFevre said.
    In 2013, EDC also hosted the first Harvey County Job Fair, an event that attracted about 30 area businesses and about 230 job seekers.
    Schrag urged the EDC to keep persevering, and he believes there is a future of prosperity for Harvey County.
    "The stakes are higher, the risks are probably greater, but the seeds have got to be planted," he said. "Someday, it's going to rain, and we're going to have a good harvest."
     

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