Cowley First, a county-wide economic development partnership of Cowley County, City of Arkansas City, City of Winfield and public-private businesses, has been providing business and community assistance for the past twelve years out of their Strother Field office.
2017 looks to be a particularly exciting and productive year for Cowley First. Cowley First Advisory Committee and Cowley First Business Partners worked diligently to identify priorities to support businesses and grow Cowley County throughout the new year.
Three focuses identified for 2017 are to increase community vitality, business education and job opportunities for county residents.
Internships and work experience for youth and young adults has been on the radar for quite some time, but the urgency to truly meet these needs has been a main topic of conversation as of late. With new department of education requirements through individual plans of study, educators and students need career exploration opportunities.
Cowley First and partners are already begun working together county-wide to research the exact needs of the schools and students and how the business community can help meet these needs. We are excited to be working on a collaborative effort of businesses, resources and secondary and post-high school educators to benefit students.
Another focus this year is to continue fostering the entrepreneurial spirit of Cowley County.
With the recent closing of the Kansas Small Business Development Center in Cowley County, Cowley First will continue to fill that niche. Future or current business owners and operators needing assistance with business development such as business plans and cash flow projections -necessary components of a loan package- can contact Cowley First for free assistance.
Cowley First also houses an E-Community loan; low interest funds for business operators opening a new business or expanding an existing business. Information on requirements and how to apply can be obtained from Cowley First, or online at www.cowleyfirst.com. With $130,000 currently in the loan fund, Cowley First is excited to see what local businesses may open or expand in 2017 due to the availability of these funds.
In addition to adding new resources and workshops to assist businesses, a topic to be highlighted this year is succession planning. Transitioning ownership of businesses is vitally important to our downtown businesses. Small businesses are a necessary component to any community and Cowley County is no different, hence the importance of long term planning for business owners to ensure that local businesses continue on after current owners decide to retire.
Workforce is always a priority of Cowley First and a complex issue as it is not just about having jobs and getting people to fill the jobs. Education, training, housing, quality of life and so much more comes into play. Objectives for 2017 include new training opportunities and promoting the www.cowley-works.com website where local jobs and rental housing are posted. With the coordinated efforts of Cowley First and the cities, housing efforts will continue including pursuing new grant opportunities.
Cowley First has always been considered a one-stop resource for business and community development and 2017 will be no different. Anyone looking to grow or expand a business in Cowley County or looking for resources to improve workforce skills or business success is invited to contact Cowley First at (620) 221-9951 or (620) 442-3094 and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.