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Agribusiness workshop presents new ideas

Staff writer

Bread marketer Norm Oeding, of Newton, learned a few things he didn’t know at an agribusiness development workshop in Marion Thursday.

Bob Fettke, regional project manager from the Wichita office of Kansas Department of Commerce, talked to attendees about a utilities sales tax exemption for agriculture and other specific industries.

Oeding raised his hand.

“How long has this existed?” Oeding asked.

“About 20 years,” Fettke answered.

“Why didn’t anyone tell us about it?” Oeding asked.

“Because we want your money,” Fettke quipped.

Most of the 24 people at the workshop were featured speakers or economic development officials. Several others were there to visit about programs or businesses with which they are involved, such as Natalya Lowther, enterprise budget manager at Seward County Community College, and Aaron Helmer, an employee of Lang Diesel in Hillsboro as well as an agricultural producer.

For Randy Collett, Marion economic development director, the agribusiness workshop was his first “official shindig.”

“It ended up being a fairly long day, but I thought the information was good and I thought the presenters did a good job,” Collett said.

With only three to five people attending simply to learn — as opposed to being there to represent a government entity — Collett said he thought “the room was a little imbalanced.”

“What I hope is the result of this is those three to five attendees now have a better insight into the opportunities that Kansas has created with a focus on agriculture,” Collett said.

As for himself, he needs to develop deeper relations with the others who were there.

“I know we’re not going to attract a 500-employee agribusiness to town,” Collett said. “There’s a lot of resources out there and we need to percolate and develop them.”

Last modified March 30, 2016

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