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  • Last modified 9 days ago (Oct. 11, 2018)

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Company highlights county's growth potential

Staff writer

Marion County should take advantage of its location near other population centers and develop more businesses with between 10 and 99 employees, the founder of a rural entrepreneurship center told area leaders last week.

The county lags in attracting younger residents and is having trouble attracting retirees in part because necessary services, including basic shopping, aren’t widely available, said Don Macke of the not-for-profit Center for Rural Entrepreneurship. He and the other founder of the center are both officials of a for-profit group that sells investment and philanthropy services.

With the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Macke provides data analysis for communities across the country.

To capitalize on retirees, there should be more services centering on them, such as a business to maintain homes when residents go on vacation, he said.

The market is underrated because it doesn’t fall under a traditional category like the ag sector, but Marion County retirees generated $155 million in personal income in 2016, he said.

Though the county has been historically reliant on farming, the industry generates the fifth-most income, with $32,941,000 in 2016. Retirees earn the most, with commuters also earning more than $100 million as a group.

Macke listed jobs developed at Tabor College as another strength of the area.

“It represents a real asset for this county,” he said. “Whenever you have higher education, it diversifies your economy. It creates a range of jobs, but it also brings people into your community.”

While the county has seen increases in the number of jobs for businesses with between two and nine employees, and 10 to 99 employees, there has been a dramatic decrease in jobs with more than 100 employees. The smaller classifications added a combined 1,511 from 2001 to 2016, but those with more than 100 employees dropped from 1,188 in 2001, to 579 in 2016.

A major advantage for Marion is its recent designation as a community with quality academic resources, city administrator Randy Collett said. The elementary school was one of 349 schools in the U.S. named a National Blue Ribbon school.

The honor makes the area an attractive destination for parents with young children, Macke said.

The event was paid for by NetWork Kansas, who brought Macke to Wichita on the same trip.

NetWork maintains close ties to Marion and Hillsboro through the cities’ E-communities, which encourage entrepreneurship within communities, NetWork’s central region manager of Rural E-ship Ciara Thyfault said. Marion and Hillsboro have access to NetWork funds as members of the E-community.

Last modified Oct. 11, 2018

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