Economic growth is a priority for Bourbon County Commission
and they are aggressively seeking to address the high mill levy, low county valuation, and population decline by a renewed focus on Economic Development.
Bourbon County Commissioners have officially taken action to address the dismal population and per capita valuation forecast with the creation of an Economic Development Director position, and the hiring of Jody Hoener for that position.
The most recent Kansas Association of Research Report shows Bourbon County’s valuation per capita ranking at a low 102 out of 105 Kansas counties. According to data from Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development Business and Research, Bourbon County is expected to see a 16% decline in population by 2044. County officials realize that should statistics continue to trend in this direction, countywide services will need to be cut, a tight labor market will dissolve, current businesses will be challenged to remain viable, and prospects of new business will be dim.
There is hope for Bourbon County’s community services, quality of life, and economic vitality.
Under the leadership of a new economic development director, the county will address county valuation and population decline. The strategy will build upon the county’s strengths and implementation of strategic planning, programs and policies that have proven to encourage economic growth, workforce development, and improve quality of life.
By increasing the county population and creating new valuation, the mill levy and taxes can be lowered without cutting services.
Justin Meeks, County Counselor states, “The research and discussions the commission has had over the past three years have led to this opportunity to possibly grow Bourbon County population and attract new residential and commercial construction within our County.”
Hoener, the new hire as the Economic Development Director, brings to the position established relationships and connections as well as experience working with state and federal regulations, grant programs such as the Community Development Block Grant, and tax incentives such as the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.
She is a community leader with a substantial background in evidence-based policy, systems, and environmental work to encourage economic growth, quality of life, and improved health outcomes.
“We are here to work tirelessly on our community’s quality of life, economic growth, and culture of health. A healthy community is a community where we have access to recreation, healthcare, education, sustainable food systems, livable wages; the housing that meets our specific needs and is a place where we feel safe.”
Lynne O’Harah shared his enthusiasm, “We welcome Jody to the Bourbon County family and look forward to the opportunities to lower taxes while seeing economic growth.”
Hoener’s salary is $35,000 a year.
Justin Meeks added, “We cannot keep relying on an increase in Mills to keep our quality of life. That’s why we are very excited to have Jody be part of this chance to see what we can do to make plans for not just tomorrow but the future of Bourbon County.”
Under Jody’s direct leadership, Bourbon County was selected as one of the first eight Pathways communities in 2016 and awarded a $500,000 grant.
Building relationships with many community stakeholders through the Pathways to a Healthy Kansas grant, the Bourbon County initiative has gained regional and statewide recognition as a leader in population health and community development.