The Newton City Commission recently heard a quarterly report from Executive Director of the Harvey County Economic Development Council (the EDC) Beth Shelton.

At that time, Shelton shared a snapshot of the EDC's 2017 project tracker, while also summarizing a number of 2016 projects that her group has carried over into 2017.

In 2016, Shelton said the EDC saw 18 total projects. In four of those cases, the EDC was unable to respond due to a lack of already existing buildings – which many companies are asking for.

Three of those projects consisted of local companies that were thinking about expanding or have expanded in 2016.

Another three were companies, located within the 10-county region, all expressing a desire to stay in the Harvey County region for their workforce and other local advantages.

A separate three were international manufacturing companies considering Harvey County.

On the new 2017 tracker, Shelton said the EDC carried over some projects from 2016.

One such project is referred to as Project Grit. Projects within the EDC are assigned code names. Shelton said Project Grit is a project intended for the Kansas Logistics Park (KLP).

The EDC worked closely with the city on that project and conducted an initial tour regarding the project. However, Shelton said they had not heard back for awhile regarding the project.

Nonetheless, Shelton said they are not out of the running for that project and they expect contacts for that business to come back for a second visit within the next couple of months.

Shelton said the company Project Grit represents is an international wind company looking to build its second United States facility. Shelton's data suggests the company also requires rail access and submitted information on both BNSF-certified sites.

For the Project Grit business to set up locally, $15 million in machinery and equipment, as well as $25 million for the land and building may be required from the company.

Project Scan, which also carried over from 2016, represents a Kansas company looking to build. That company submitted information on the Sedgwick Industrial Park.

The company Project Scan represents is currently leasing space in the south central Kansas region, and the EDC is still receiving bids from contractors, as well as trying to find an existing building as an option for the company's space.

Also carried over from 2016, Project 13 represents a Kansas company looking to expand into two acres adjacent to an existing facility.

Project 13 is estimated to cost $3.9 million in capital investment and create 23 area jobs. The EDC has provided an incentive breakout and is waiting for that company to move forward.

Project Hurricane, which began in early January of 2017, involves an international company, which is looking for an existing building for manufacturing, engineering, assembly, welding, powder painting and sheet metal fabrication.

The Project Hurricane company is also looking for an existing 200,000 square foot building with 10 to 15 acres (zoned light industrial). Their project would mean an estimated $5 million investment and could house roughly 350 employees.

As an existing 200,000 square foot building cannot be found easily in Kansas, Shelton said the EDC was unable to submit for the project.

However, Shelton said they have notified the state that, should the client change their mind and decide to build, Harvey County Economic Development can provide the land infrastructure to meet the location specifications provided.

In 2017, Shelton said the EDC will be placing a big focus on business retention visits. They have recently visited with various county businesses, many of which are looking to expand.

Shelton also noted that the EDC will be refocusing on marketing, cutting down on marketing travel and not going to as many external events.

Doing so could free up money the EDC can use to revamp its website, which Shelton said is important. Various potential businesses have suggested, rather than information to read, they would prefer to watch their information.

Shelton said McPherson Industrial Development currently provides aerial footage of their industrial parks. Harvey County Economic Development is looking to do something similar for its industrial parks in 2017.

Recently, a company from Moundridge contacted the EDC for information about the KLP. Since leading that tour, Shelton said they have considered revisiting KLP marketing and visiting again with regional companies.

The EDC also plans on looking at industrial park signage and making sure it is consistent. Shelton said there is signage at the KLP, but not at all of the county's industrial parks.

Shelton noted that they would also like to continue engaging in more local advertising, with local papers, as that could help to better pre-establish the EDC's purpose – so that when they reach out to companies, those companies already know a bit about who they are.

The last time Shelton visited the Newton City Commission, she spoke about strategic planning and taking a closer look at what the EDC could be doing better.

Shelton said they had been evaluating proposals since last July, visited with both the city and county, had done extensive vetting and had voted (at their last board meeting) to move forward in strategic planning by partnering with Garner Economics, LLC.

Garner Economics will help the EDC by conducting a labor market and cluster analysis, which Shelton said will examine its business makeup, looking at workforce strengths and opportunities, as well as how it can leverage those for business targeting.

Shelton said Garner Economics plans to conduct a demographic and economic analysis, as well as a community assessment.

Garner will be able to look at the EDC the way a site-selector would look at it. Shelton said that will be beneficial, as a lot of times the EDC does not know why they are being eliminated from projects – Garner Economic's studies should help them to improve the things that they can effect.

The process with Garner should take 12 weeks and be finished in mid-May.

In March, the EDC will also conduct a meet-and-greet with the Kansas Secretary of Commerce, shortly after their board meeting.

Shelton said that event is intended for area business leaders, community leaders, leaders from other cities in the county and members of the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce.