Inman To Spur Entrepreneurship Via Grant


INMAN – After six months of work, Inman is finally ready to help businesses in town in a way that hasn’t been done in the area before.

On July 6, the City of Inman, in conjunction with the Inman School District and the Inman Chamber of Commerce, was awarded a NetWork Kansas ( www.networkkansas.com) grant that will allow local banks to greatly assist existing businesses wishing to expand and new businesses wishing to start-up in Inman.

“We’re very pleased to hear we got it already,” Chamber President Bob Ratzlaff said.

Ratzlaff said he didn’t expect to hear one way or the other until later this month.

“I was surprised we heard so quickly,” he said.

In this the third distribution of the program, Inman was one of nine communities chosen to receive the grant this go around.

“It is very exciting to see our E-Community Partnerships expand and achieve continued success,” said Erik Pedersen, NetWork Kansas Associate Director. “Our goal is to help rural communities in Kansas become an E-Community so they have a greater ability to connect every entrepreneur and small business owner in their community to the expertise, education and economic resources they need in order to succeed.”

The grant program, referred to as the E-Community Grant for its entrepreneurship development in communities focus, allows the community to collect money from donors in return for up to $150,000 in tax credits. That money can then be loaned out to help Inman-area businesses in need.

“Now the work begins,” Ratzlaff said. “We will collect the pledges on that. Those have to be collected by Dec. 1. Once we get an amount collected, we can start the process of finishing it up and start accepting applications.”

Raztlaff said he anticipated being “open for business” during the first quarter of 2010.

At that time, Ratzlaff said, they would be able to loan out up to $160,000, which breaks down to up to four $40,000 loans at a time depending upon loan repayments. Businesses can ask for less than the $40,000, and either way it comes with a low interest rate.

“The low interest rate should help the cash flow,” he said. “It should also help them gain other loans. This gives a little down payment. The applicant also needs to have some money down too. I think they want 10 percent down of their own money. They need equity.”

Then when the money gets paid back, another loan will be made to another business.

During its first two rounds, a total of 12 E-Community partners were granted more than $1.75 million in tax credits, and currently have over $2.3 million in seed funding they can use to provide matching grants or loans to entrepreneurs and small business owners in their communities.

Each E-Community partners with NetWork Kansas to achieve the following results: 1) Through a tax credit grant, communities establish a fund for entrepreneurs and small business owners that is administered at the local level; 2) Each community identifies local, regional and state assets available to assist entrepreneurs and businesses; 3) Each community establishes a long-term tracking and accountability system to measure business and economic growth; and 4) A long-term partnership with more than 470 NetWork Kansas resource partners statewide provides assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Pledging money to the E-Community grant program in Inman works like any other donation, Raztlaff said.

In exchange for the money, the donor gets a tax credit of 67.5 percent tax credit on his or her state taxes, Raztlaff said.

“Then you would also be able to take that off on your federal rate, depending upon what that is,” he said.

Ratzlaff said he believes Inman received the grant to offer the tax credits because Inman School District Superintendent Kevin Case had already collected many pledges.

“They were impressed, and Kevin had that done very, very quickly,” he said. “The community is used to those, so we are hoping those will then come in.”

Ratzlaff said a majority of the pledges came from people within the Inman area.

“The rest were McPherson County. They were in the county, so we felt very good about that,” he said.

Raztlaff said the State of Kansas likes this program because it understands the benefits of having more businesses and employees working in the state, which turns into more revenue for Kansas.

“There should be some good benefits for the state in the future,” he said. “They’re kind of prepaying some benefits.”

The program is called a grant program, but Raztlaff said it could be used as a loan program, which he believes will be better to ensure the program can continue to help people further down the road.

“This is just another program that gives us more access to money,” he said.
Ratzlaff said the loans doled out by the Inman E-Community Grant would be unsecured, meaning people might be able to get a start-up loan without collateral but having strong organizational and cash flow abilities.

“We have to be very careful,” he said. “We don’t want too many of those loans to go bad or we’re out of money because we don’t have any security going against them. It’s not a bucket of money just waiting to get used. There are some pretty stringent qualifications on it.”

Ratzlaff said the Inman program is still working through all the details of how the application process is going to work and how to determine if a business will be able to receive the money.

So far, Ratzlaff said a few people have inquired about the possibilities being offered.

“We’ve had some good interest,” he said. “It’s been interesting to see people that are wanting to expand or put a business here in Inman.”

Ratzlaff said the focus of the program is to help Inman first, but any net gain in jobs for the state is looked upon favorably by the Kansas Department of Commerce, who is involved in the program for tax and legal purposes.

Ratzlaff said people outside of the Inman city limits could also apply, but they needed to be in the Inman community.

So will a large manufacturing company be moving to Inman? Ratzlaff said he doubts it.

“We’re not going to get great-big companies,” he said. “I think we can do well with the little one to five to 10 employee businesses.”

Ratzlaff said any type of business could apply for the program’s monies.

“There is not a limit on what kind of business it is,” he said. “We can basically look at any business that wants to expand. Anyone can apply for it.”

Any business, whether a start-up or an expanding business, can apply. It doesn’t matter either way in the eyes of the program, Ratzlaff said.

Ratzlaff said he feels the benefit the program will afford to Inman will be great.

“We get new employment in,” he said. “That should help our tax base if that business is in the city limits. Employment always helps. That will help a lot. Hopefully we get some new residents out of that. Just keep the community going, just keep it very vital.”

Ratzlaff said the economy could affect this program, but not necessarily negatively.

“If we were in a robust economy, it would probably be easier to get businesses,” he said. “I think traditionally, you see when you come out of a recession, you see new businesses, people with new ideas, people who want to expand. This is really a pretty ideal time for us. People need to be looking forward. Hopefully this gives people ideas.”

Ideally, Ratzlaff said the news businesses would draw people in off of the new highway, which is no longer going to be going directly through Inman.

“It would be great to see some service industry too to help the area,” he said. “I think everybody is open to any kind of business within reason.”

Some of the issue, particularly in regards to getting people to pull off of K-61, would be securing land between the highway and Inman.

“I’m confident people will work with us,” Ratzlaff said.

City Superintendent Bill Maurer said rezoning a tract of land wouldn’t be difficult. He said could it could take as little as two months because a petition to rezone has to be filed 30 days prior the zoning commission’s hearing date.

“That’s not hard at all,” he said.

Maurer said the person would probably also want to be annexed by Inman so the town could provide sewer services, and although that isn’t a requirement to get rezoned, he said the annexation could take place at the same time as the rezoning.

Whether businesses sprout up around the highway or not, Ratzlaff said he sees K-61 as a benefit because it puts Inman directly between McPherson and Hutchinson.

“I think we’re ideally located,” he said. “It’s a very big advantage, not a disadvantage, to be between the two communities.”

Ratzlaff said he is excited to continue to work on this project and help Inman develop.

“Inman is committed to growing our community through entrepreneurship,” Ratzlaff said. “As members of a rural community, our citizens always come together to support causes that strengthen the community. Working as an E-Community partner, they can continue this tradition by utilizing one of the best tax credit programs available in Kansas.”

For more information about the NetWork Kansas E-Community Partnership or Entrepreneurship Tax Credits, visit www.networkkansas.com, or call 877-521-8600.

NetWork Kansas was established as a component of the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004 to further entrepreneurship and small business growth as a priority for economic and community development in the State of Kansas.

Backed by more than 470 partners statewide, the NetWork Kansas service promotes an entrepreneurial environment by connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the expertise, education and economic resources they need in order to succeed.

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