From downtown and destination development to infrastructure and community investment programs, Kansas is actively working with its small and rural communities to improve the lives of Kansans and encourage economic prosperity. While the effects of the pandemic continue to linger in communities across the globe, small businesses and communities in Kansas have access to several programs that aim to bolster the state’s most charming and vibrant assets.
Over the summer, Governor Laura Kelly announced the third round of Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Response Supplement (CDBG-CV) awards, distributing nearly $4 million to 25 Kansas communities to promote business retention for small businesses affected by the pandemic. CDBG-CV is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. The two previous grant rounds in this category awarded cities and counties with projects pertaining to economic development and meal programs.
“Kansas continues to experience record economic success, bringing in jobs and business investment at historic levels,” Governor Kelly said. “These grant funds will support that momentum by ensuring small Kansas businesses can maintain their workforce. We’ll continue to focus strategic investments that will create a stronger, more resilient economy to help Kansas businesses and families succeed.”
Main Street Reboot
Originally launched in 1985, Kansas Main Street has helped dozens of mostly rural communities work toward ensuring the viability of their downtown districts. During the first 27 years of the Kansas Main Street program, more than $600 million in redevelopment was invested in designated Main Street communities statewide. During that same time, nearly 4,000 small businesses were started, creating over 8,600 new jobs. The program was closed by the Brownback administration in 2012 and brought back in late 2019 under the directive of Gov. Kelly and former Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers’ Office of Rural Prosperity.
Kansas Main Street is a self-help technical assistance program administered by the Community Development Division at the Kansas Department of Commerce. The program targets preservation and revitalization of downtown districts through the development of a comprehensive strategy based on the four points of Organization, Design, Promotion and Economic Restructuring. The Kansas Main Street program is affiliated with the National Main Street Center. While there are no federal funds provided directly to Main Street communities, designated cities are eligible for training and technical assistance designed to help them become self-sufficient in downtown revitalization.
Earlier this year, three communities were selected into the Kansas Main Street Program — Atchison, Baldwin City, and Junction City — bringing the total number of designated Main Street communities in Kansas to 28. These three communities are the first new additions to the state’s Main Street program since its reintroduction in Kansas in 2019.
“Quality of life is key to the Kelly Administration’s economic development efforts, and we know vibrant downtowns are a key indicator of community’s overall health,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “Since Governor Kelly brought the state Main Street program back, Kansas communities once again have the resources and tools they need to breathe new life into their communities and historic commercial districts.”
Lifeline for Historic Buildings
In November, Kansas launched a new grant program to quickly help revitalize underutilized, vacant and dilapidated downtown buildings in rural Kansas communities.
The Historic Economic Asset Lifeline (HEAL) grant program is designed to bring downtown buildings back into productive use as spaces for new or expanding businesses; housing; arts and culture; civic engagement; childcare; or entrepreneurship. The matching grants will help address emergency needs for neglected buildings and assist building owners with eligible expenses for the revitalization of historic properties. Projects submitted must show potential as economic drivers in the community.
“We have a shortage of ready to occupy buildings across the state, but also an abundance of historic buildings with good bones that make them great candidates for rehabilitation,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce David Toland said. “The HEAL program provides an immediate opportunity to close financial gaps in restoring these properties and making downtown districts throughout our state more economically vibrant, while also creating new jobs and services for Kansans.”