Lyon County commissioners approved a $20,000 payment for the support of ongoing Ignite Emporia initiatives during a meeting consisting mostly of executive sessions, Thursday.
The funds — which were drawn from sales tax accounts — were part of a larger, five-year, $100,000 pledge from the county in support of the organization. The payments are split into equal annual installments, and can be canceled pending a review of the group’s progress in economic growth, business retention and workforce training initiatives, among other goals.
Ignite Emporia Director Rob Gilligan and Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jeanine McKenna attended Thursday’s meeting to provide commissioners with an update on such happenings, saying much had been accomplished despite difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This truly is and has been a joint effort between private and public entities,” McKenna said. “We’re grateful for all the generous grants and support we’ve received … With the pandemic, we were able to work with Lyon County Emergency Management and so far have provided over 30,000 masks to businesses so they can offer them to patrons coming in.”
Gilligan reported seeing progress in areas throughout Lyon County, saying it wasn’t restricted to the city limits.
“Housing development within the community and within Lyon County as a region is one of the main priorities of the Ignite Emporia initiative …” Gilligan said. “Some of our communities are really taking this on already … There’s been some really great activity going on in the Hartford area where they’ve been moving in some homes and remodeling them in a community that hasn’t seen much growth or development over the years. So, there are some small project ideas with a goal for big project ideas that we hope to move forward to in the near future starting here in Emporia.”
On matters of employment, Gilligan said one of the organization’s major focuses was reaching out to local students nearing the end of their high school careers, providing them resources like skill assessments and other job-readiness programs to help determine possible career paths.
“One of the key areas we’ve been working for is to become an [ACT]-certified Work Ready Community ...” he said. “ACT of course has the college-entrance exam, but they also have a work-ready assessment. It’s something the state of Kansas has adopted to improve opportunities for students …Students in Lyon County were scheduled to take them in March and April this year ...that was obviously derailed a bit … but, just last week our schools in south Lyon County at Olpe and Hartford and at North Lyon County at Northern Heights …[Emporia High] has a make-up day scheduled for later this month.”
The most important thing for local residents to remember about the Ignite, Gilligan stressed, was the organization’s focus on economic growth for the entire county, not just the City of Emporia itself, despite its name.
“Sometimes, a lot of people may get caught up in this whole idea of Emporia versus the rest of Lyon County, but ultimately, we know the City of Emporia is only as strong as the rest of the region,” Gilligan said. “The support of our communities like Olpe, like Hartford, Americus, Allen, Admire and even Miller provides a foundation for success on how we can all partner together for the betterment of the region. It’s a really great opportunity.”
In other business, commissioners also:
Approved a $6,227 payment to the Flint Hills Regional Council for Lyon County’s portion of line credit the council accrued in 2018