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Applications Open for Second Cohort of Kansas Commerce Rural Champions


By the Kansas Department of Commerce


TOPEKA, Kan. (April 29,2024) — Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland announced that the Office of Rural Prosperity has opened applications for the second cohort of Rural by Choice Champions. Offered in collaboration with the Patterson Family Foundation, the Rural Champions program funds dedicated development assistance for rural communities that lack the capital, expertise or other resources to complete critical local projects.

This cohort will be awarded a total of $610,000 to be used amongst 12 rural communities with 40,000 or less in population.

“Over the past year, we have witnessed phenomenal progress with the first Rural Champions cohort. This initiative has brought positive change and success to rural communities that might otherwise struggle on their own,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “These grants help generate local momentum to keep developing and strengthening our communities, improving the quality of life throughout the Sunflower State.”

The Rural Champions grant opportunity was created to provide development support to cities, counties, community foundations, tribal nations or community organizations that have experienced difficultly making progress on critical issues that have hindered economic and community growth.

“Rural Champions cohort communities have a deep understanding of their local challenges and opportunities and are committed to creating a positive future,” Patterson Family Foundation Vice President of Programs and Strategy Jessica Hunt said. “As our Foundation works toward thriving rural communities, we recognize that efforts like this can help launch new strategies toward complex rural issues.”

Creating a housing development plan for Linn and Harper counties, establishing 24/7 mental health telehealth in Morton County, and developing new childcare facilities in Decatur, Kingman, Ford and Clay counties were examples of projects that the 2023 Rural Champions tackled. Other champions established systems that will support future growth by creating new trails in Independence; developing welcoming communities and prosperous downtowns in Wallace, Graham and Lincoln counties; and growing entrepreneurship opportunities in Geary County. Details of all the projects can be found in the 2023 Rural Champions Guidebook here.

The grants will provide awarded communities $20,800 quarterly to work through locally identified key challenges. Awardees also receive an additional $25,000 grant at the end of the year to move communities into the implementation phase of their projects.

“The success of these projects will provide roadmaps for future projects and communities that are trying to identify where to start,” Office of Rural Prosperity Director Trisha Purdon said. “These programs are important to small towns because they are so unique. Being able to assist with funding and provide resources paves the way to growing economic and community development in communities that need them the most.”

To apply, a community must identify a Rural Champion and document a focus area that has been identified as a significant need. Additionally, applicants must provide matching support that includes a dedicated mentor, office space, equipment and a cash match to cover travel expenses for quarterly trainings. Applicants that provide an additional cash match to increase hours or pay for the Champion will receive added consideration in the review process.

Award announcements will be made in September.

Applications are being accepted now through midnight Wednesday, July 31. Applicants that submit before June 30 can request a pre-review of their application. An informational webinar will be presented at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 7. To register, click here.

Click here for additional information or contact Kerri Falletti by email (here) or phone, (785) 207-5206.