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Business group stimulates regional growth

By RAY SCHERER

News-Press Now

WATHENA, Kan. — Developing businesses in Doniphan County and elsewhere in Kansas are banding together under a common umbrella of entrepreneurialdreams. The common denominator is Northeast Kansas Enterprise Facilitation, a business-coaching organization that quietly serves economic pursuits in Atchison, Brown, Doniphan, Jackson and Nemaha counties.

The group, begun in 2003, relies on the best minds of 64 members of a community resource board. Teresa McAnerney has been NEKEF’s facilitator for seven years.

“I feel like the unifier for the five counties,” she said of her role. “Our organization’s pretty well known.”

A quarterly meeting allows the directors to flesh out what’s worked, and what hasn’t, toward promoting new business. Resources dispensed include easing access to grant and loan applications.

“A g r it ou r i s m is big right now” in Kansas, McAnerney said. That initiative is conveying the handiness of free liability insurance that helps allay any concerns for farm-based operations.

Altruism and credence in a grass-roots philosophy are prime motivators for the organization, she added, with the success of community contributions fostering new projects.

“You have to believe in the goodness of people,” McAnerney said. “It’s like an old-fashioned barn raising.”

The program even includes a youth component: the Northeast Kansas Entrepreneurship Academy, scheduled for June 19 to 22 at Highland Community College.

“That’s another way we’re unifying the region,”she said. Jessica Studer, a State Farm Insurance agent in Wathena, is among devotees of the approach. Shehelped transform the building where her office is located, a site that once housed a hatchery.

“We did a complete gut and a partial teardown,” Studer said. It took a year to finish the job.

Nearby businesses have become excited about the remodel, coaxing them into their own endeavors.

“I feel like the pride of the community is important,” she said. “I do think that when people see you’re investing, it does help them look at themselves.”

The coaching for Janie Newton, owner of The Flower Peddler, began in October. Those services included creation of a business plan, preparation of an income forecast and work with a loan office. The shop opened Jan. 9, with a grand opening set for Tuesday, March 14.

Rani Force, co-owner of Marie Antoinette’s Gluten-Free Bake Shoppe, opened up for business in 2013. Like Newton, she credits McAnerney for funneling resources her way.

Since its inception, the group has served 1,161 clients. Currently there are 68 active clients. A total of 161 businesses and 540 jobs have been created through the network of resources.

Ray Scherer can be reached at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.

Space that once served as a hatchery in downtown Wathena, Kansas, left, has been transformed into office space for an insurance agency, above. Several other businesses in the city also recently have undergone a repurposing.

Ray Scherer News-Press Now

Submitted photo

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