Category Archives: Jobs

Bourbon County REDI Completes Workforce Assessment


Rob Harrington. Submitted photo.

An in-depth assessment of the workforce in Bourbon County has been completed and it offers a series of recommendations for BCREDI to work on immediately and for the long term.  That’s according to Executive Director Robert Harrington.  The workforce assessment was one of three studies BCREDI has undertaken since early spring, with the other two focused on retail opportunities and housing needs.

Along workforce study included one-on-one interviews with key employers as well as a survey that provided input from more than sixty-four employers in the county.  Residents also had their input, with more than 440 people providing input.  More than 80% are currently employed, including a sampling of those who commute into the county for work.  In addition, nearly 130 Ft. Scott and Uniontown school students gave their thoughts on their education and careers.

“This workforce assessment provides a lot of on the ground input from companies, employees, those that might want to come back to a job and students that will help our staff and board develop ways to improve our overall workforce,” said Harrington.  Harrington noted the input from surveys helps fill in the gaps that the extensive statistical data in the report doesn’t address.  “The data can tell us a lot about how we are doing in Bourbon County, how we compare to our surrounding counties and other areas on things like wages and how many people commute in and out for work.  But it doesn’t tell us things like how employers view the skills of the workforce and what skills they think are important and, on the other side, how satisfied employees are with their current work and their own levels of skills,” noted Harrington.

The workforce assessment was conducted by O’Brian & Associates, an economic and workforce development consulting firm based in Joplin, MO.  Along with the on-the ground input and statistical data, the firm’s report also provides a series of recommendations as a starting point for action.  “They gave us good observations on where we are today and what our employers and employees, including our future workforce, needs to be successful.  From that they gave us a variety of recommendations on improving training, connecting students to employers, better supporting existing employers and engaging those not currently in the workforce,” said Harrington.  “Now it’s up to our staff and board to look at priorities as well as key partners such as the school districts, Ft. Scott Community College, Chamber of Commerce and others to start the work in the new year,” he added.

“It was a pleasure working with the Bourbon County REDI team and having such great response from companies, residents and students,” said Rob O’Brian, founder of O’Brian & Associates.  “Bourbon County has strong manufacturing, health care, education and agriculture sectors that have provided good job opportunities and good education options for many years.  This study gives REDI a starting point for improving what it has, adding new options and ensuring residents have good jobs and companies have skilled employees into the future.”



Lack Of Agriculture Workforce Is Inhibiting Growth

A lack of a skilled agriculture workforce is a top inhibitor of growth and expansion for many Kansas agriculture entities. To help support growth in agriculture, the Kansas Department of Agriculture seeks to help the industry better understand workforce needs among agricultural employers in the state. To link the supply of human capital to the needs of Kansas agribusiness enterprises, KDA conducted the second Kansas Agriculture Workforce Needs Assessment Survey in 2022. The survey was analyzed by the Agricultural Land Use Survey Center at Kansas State University.

The survey was emailed to over 25,000 businesses with 1,192 choosing to participate. Participating businesses employ 27,466 individuals in Kansas and 9,244 outside of Kansas. Respondents were asked to self-select the major category that applied to their business.

“We are committed to growing agriculture in Kansas, and that centers around a reliable and capable workforce,” said Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam. “We know recruiting and retaining skilled, talented workers to fill critical roles is a priority of the agriculture industry in our state.”

The survey findings will be used along with action items developed at the Kansas Summit on Agricultural Growth, which was held in August, to help direct KDA’s vision in serving the farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses of Kansas. Employers and state agencies need to work together to find or develop programs so that businesses may implement successful on-the-job training. By working with secondary schools and postsecondary educational institutions, the agriculture industry can develop beneficial partnerships that will help teach the skills and content needed by employers and will help the industry gain access to trained future employees.

To view the final report from the survey, go to For more information, please contact Russell Plaschka, Director of KDA Ag Marketing Division, at 785-564-7466 or [email protected].


Agriculture Workforce Survey Results Complete.pdf

Dale Wiley: A Handyman

One of the 18 sewing machines that Marie Wiley has in her husbands shop.

Dale Wiley loved to tinker.

Dale Wiley. Submitted.

“He was handy and clever,” said his wife of 60 years said. “And he was pretty talented.”

Marie Wiley.

For over 23 years, Dale served on the Fort Scott Fire Department as a firefighter. But in his spare time, he began repairing sewing machines. Marie Wiley, his wife is a talented seamstress, who worked at Country Cupboard for several decades.

Before working at Country Cupboard, Marie worked for Helen Carson, owner of Helen’s Fabric,  and Helen asked Dale to repair sewing machines.

“He went to Bernina School in K.C. and also to training in Las Vegas for training,” Marie said. At first he repaired only Bernina’s, but began to tinker with other brands.

TWo of the Wiley sewing machines.

“Sometimes he would spend a couple of hours and sometimes a couple of weeks on a machine,” she said. “Sometimes he had to make machine parts. It had to be done right or he wasn’t going to do it.”

When Dale died on August 23, 2022, there remained 18 sewing machines in his shop that people had given him and he took on to repair.

A Brother Sewing Machine that Dale repaired.

“It was just a hobby for him to tinker around with,” she said.

Besides Bernina machines in the Wiley garage there are Singer, including two antiques, Brother, J.C. Penney, Montgomery Wards, Sears Kenmore, and Husquana Brands, along with two Singers for leather work and two sergers.  A serger trims the seam and encloses the seam allowance or edge of the fabric, inside a thread casing, all in one step, according to

A serger that Dale Wiley repaired.

“He repaired no computerized sewing machines, just the heavier old ones with no nylon gears,” Marie said.

One of the sewing machines that sews on leather.

Marie also has eight sewing machines in her sewing room in the house and continues to create cloth heirlooms for her family.

As with her husband, small appliance repair options are dying.

“Small appliance repair is a dying art,” Marie said. “Everything is made to be thrown away when it doesn’t work.”

For more information about the machines, contact Marie at 620.215.2014.



FSHS Organization to Sponsor Job Fair

Photo by Kaleb Bailey.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry representatives working to ensure America has a skilled workforce. The Fort Scott High School Chapter of SkillsUSA is hosting a job fair on Wednesday, April 25, 2023 from 8 a.m. to noon in the high school auxiliary gym.

The purpose is to acquaint students with career opportunities available in the region. Michelle Laubenstein is the advisor for the group and can be reached at [email protected] or call 620.223.0600.


The FSHS SkillsUSA club is one of 23 Fort Scott High School  student organizations, here is a list of the rest.

Ascension Via Christi: on List of America’s Best Employers

Ascension Via Christi Kansas’ best overall, best hospital and health system employers, says Forbes

Last week, Forbes released its 2022 list of “America’s Best Employers by State” across all industries. Nationwide, 262 hospitals and health systems made the cut.

Ascension ranked No. 15 out of all Kansas employers and was one of only three hospitals/health systems to make the list in Kansas. Ascension Via Christi was the only healthcare employer in Wichita.

“Being named one of the state’s best employers is a direct representation of our amazing associates doing their meaningful work in a positive environment,” says Kevin Strecker, Ascension Via Christi’s chief executive officer. “It’s even more impressive given that it is based on feedback from our associates and that of other Kansas businesses’ employees.”

To compile its list, Forbes, in collaboration with market research company Statista, surveyed 70,000 employees working for businesses with more than 500 employees. A total of 1,382 employers in varying industries were ranked, with multi-state employers being able to be ranked more than once.

All the surveys were anonymous, allowing participants to openly share their opinions and rate their employers on a variety of criteria, including fair pay, safe working conditions, inclusive culture, remote work benefits and diversity initiatives. Respondents then were asked how likely they’d be to recommend their employer to others and to nominate organizations in industries outside their own.

Forbes then ranked the 1,382 employers with the greatest number of recommendations in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Other recent recognitions include:

  • Ascension Via Christi St. Francis having been named by U.S. News & World Report as a Best Regional Hospital for 2022-2023, the only Wichita hospital and one of a dozen Ascension hospitals nationwide to make the list.
  • Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph and Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan having made U.S. News & World Report’s inaugural list of Best Hospitals for Maternity Care.
  • Numerous recent accreditations, including Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg being re-accredited as a Level III Trauma Center following a survey with zero deficiencies and Ascension Via Christi St. Francis was re-accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. It also received re-accreditation for adult autologous hematopoietic progenitor and a first-time accreditation of immune effector cellular therapies by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy. Additionally, St. Francis’ ER became an accredited Geriatric Emergency Department — making it the second in Wichita and fifth Ascension Via Christi ER with that distinction.

“The challenges facing healthcare providers nationwide are daunting after two years of a pandemic like no other in our lifetime,” says Strecker. “This latest recognition is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our associates to a Mission that has endured for more than 135 years.

“They are the foundation of our ministry. It is through their collaboration with our Medical Staff, volunteers and community partners that our hospitals and clinics are a great place to give and receive care.”


About Ascension Via Christi


In Kansas, Ascension Via Christi operates seven hospitals and 75 other sites of care and employs nearly 6,400 associates. Across the state, Ascension Via Christi provided nearly $89 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty in fiscal year 2021. Serving Kansas for more than 135 years, Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. Ascension is the leading non-profit and Catholic health system in the U.S., operating more than 2,600 sites of care – including 145 hospitals and more than 40 senior living facilities – in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Visit



Need Money: Job Fair Today at FSCC’s Elllis Center







2108 S. HORTON ST.


Employers registered include the following,

for a printable flyer click here:

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)

Ascension Via Christi

CHC/SEK – Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas

Crossland Construction

Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce

Fort Scott Presbyterian Village

Heartland Behavioral Health

Integrity Home Care and Hospice

Kansas Department of Transportation


MyShift, Inc.

Nevada Regional Medical Center

Niece Products

Peerless Products

Sharky’s Pub & Grub

Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center


Twister Trailer

USD-234 School District

Valu Merchandisers Company


Ward-Kraft, Inc.

Positions Available

Thank you to the employers below who have

registered to have a booth at the Job Fair!

Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest

Local Job Fair August 31at the FSCC Ellis Center

2108 S. HORTON ST.
Employers registered so far include the following,
any employers wanting to register may click here:
Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)
Ascension Via Christi
Crossland Construction
Heartland Behavioral Health
Kansas Department of Transportation
Nevada Regional Medical Center
Niece Products
Peerless Products
Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center
USD-234 School District
Valu Merchandisers Company
Ward-Kraft, Inc.
Positions Available
Thank you to the employers below who have registered to have a booth at the Job Fair! Any other employers wanting to attend may click here!
Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce | 231 E. Wall Street, Fort Scott, KS 66701

Update on Jail Staff Shortage

Bob Reed is the Bourbon County Law Enforcement Center Administrator. Taken from the jail’s website.

On June 16, 2022, Bourbon County Jail Administrator Bob Reed announced that inmates are being sent to other counties, because of staffing shortages.

On that day he announced that approximately 56 inmates out of 65 are being housed elsewhere, with a  cost to the county of $40 per day per inmate.

Reed said he and Sheriff Bill Martin are still working on the problem.

“As of 08-01-2022 we have 30 inmates (out of 54) being housed out,” Reed said. ” Depending on the county that is $35-45 per inmate per day.”

Currently, there are 24 being housed in Bourbon County with the rest in Allen, Cherokee, and Wilson County’s jails, according to the jail’s daily reports.

The Bourbon County Law Enforcement staff are still transporting inmates for hearings, etc.

“Some hearings are done by zoom and some are done in person,” Reed said.  ” The ones that are done in person are obviously transported here from the county they are being housed in and then transported back.”

“I currently have nine employees,” he said. “Three to five more will get us going.” Sixteen would make the jail fully staffed, he said.

“I have not been fully staffed for a long time,” he said.

Since June Sheriff Bill Martin and Reed have worked to raise the base pay from $12.50  an hour to $14.50 an hour, he said.

He said the county offers standard benefits of eye, health, dental, major medical insurance, sick time, and vacation.

Bourbon County Sheriff Bill Martin works at his desk at the Bourbon County Law Enforcement Center, Fort Scott.

To view the prior story:

Bo Co Jail Inmates Moved to Other Counties

USDA $202,000 Grant For Healthy Bourbon County Action Team

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Kansas Director for Rural Development Christy Davis today announced that USDA is investing $2,268,200 toward eight community projects across the state.

Project details of today’s eight announcements are:

  • A $33,000 grant will assist Thrive Allen County, Inc. with a Feasibility Study to create an incubator/accelerator space for Allen County. The space would increase economic development by creating an inviting, supportive space for entrepreneurs in the area.
  • A $202,000 grant will assist The Healthy Bourbon County Action Team, in conjunction with partners Pittsburg State University Small Business Development Center and Kansas Works, expand services to small businesses. Assistance provided will include access to local employment opportunities, increased access in business education, workforce development, and job training opportunities. It is anticipated that 100 full time jobs will be created.
  • A $30,200 grant will help purchase a fully equipped patrol vehicle to enhance the work of the City of South Hutchinson‘s Police Department.
  • A $55,000 loan and a $35,000 grant will help purchase four transportation vehicles for individuals with developmental disabilities in Marshall and Washington Counties. The three transport vehicles and one maintenance truck will replace older vehicles with high mileage and high maintenance costs. Once all the vehicles are put into service, they will meet the basic needs of the individuals with developmental disabilities for many years to come.
  • A $577,000 loan and a $291,000 grant will provide additional funding for renovating the water and sewer system in the City of Caney. Funds previously obligated for this project include $600,000 from the Kansas Department of Commerce and loans and grants totaling $4,765,800 from USDA Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal.
  • A $24,000 grant will be used toward an engineer to evaluate the current wastewater system for the City of Susank. A preliminary Engineering Report will outline any appropriate corrective actions needed.
  • A $479,000 loan and a $512,000 grant will supplement previous funding for improvements to the water supply system of the City of Caldwell.  Funds already assigned to this project include a prior award from Rural Development’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan in the amount of $1,558,000 and Kansas Department of Commerce-Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $600,000. This project ensures that the city will have safe and reliable water for many years to come.
  • A $30,000 grant will be used to evaluate the wastewater collection system and treatment facility in La Harpe. An engineer will evaluate the current system and propose a plan for repairing and modernizing the water system. Once completed the city will have the information needed to develop a final wastewater system project.

New Pig Farm Being Located Near Bourbon County Line: Help Needed

All photos submitted.

A swine farm is being constructed along the county line next to Bourbon County

The company, Monarch Sow Farm, is owned by Perdue Premium Meat Company, headquartered in Salisbury, MD, and is located in Neosho County.  Their harvest facility is in Sioux Center, Iowa.

“The property is on the county lines of Neosho, Allen, and Bourbon; but in Neosho County,” said Jim Magolski, PHD, Perdue’s Senior Director of Hog Quality and Protocols. “The property is south of Alabama/250th Road, west of York/10th Road, and north of 39.”

The 240 acres of land was purchased in March 2021, and construction began February 2022.  The site will be completed in August of 2022, according to Magolski.

“We birth (farrow) and raise baby pigs until they are old enough to be weaned from their mothers,” said Magolski.

“The farm, when fully populated, will house 1600 sows across five barns, three barns comprised of large pens bedded with straw for gestation and two barns of individual birthing pens for the moms and piglets that is also bedded with straw and wood shavings; all raised in accordance to production protocols that exceed industry standards,” he said.  “Our program is part of a farming system that helps support new and young farmers, independent family farmers and generational farmers that are looking to grow sustainably, humanely raised pigs.”

“This farm is on the Bourbon County line, but is actually in Neosho County,” he said.  “As an antibiotic free production system, biosecurity and the distance to other swine is a key component of this type of production model’s success.  The combination of low pig density, an ideal climate for our open air barns, quality work force, ample access to bedding (straw), and close proximity to our network of independent family farms made this area an ideal location to expand our business while investing in a community we look forward to being a valued member of.”

“The piglets from this farm will be sold to farmers in the region to raise on their land as part of our weaned pig program,” he said. “This program has helped farmers find a way to make a living in agriculture, particularly young farmers who do not have the time to dedicate to farrowing.  Today we have over 600 producers in our network across the Midwest, including over 30 producers in eastern Kansas.”

Employees are needed for the farm.

“We’re hiring!” he said.  “We pay well above minimum wage and have many growth opportunities within a larger company. Ultimately we will have 12 employees at the location.”

For more information go to and search “Kansas”.






Dairy’s Future: Less and Bigger Farms AND More Technology

David and Addi Foster with their children. Submitted photo.
June is National Dairy Month and interviewed David and Lynda Foster, whose family operates Foster Dairy Farm southwest of Fort Scott on Hwy. 39 to get their perspective on the current state and the future of the dairy industry.
David and his wife, Addi, are in partnership with his mom and dad, Lynda and Gary Foster.
Lynda and Gary Foster, from her Facebook page.
Lynda’s grandfather, Ed Davis began the farm in the 1940s, she said.
Now the fifth generation, David and Addi’s oldest daughters, Ansley, 15, and Mayla, 13 are helping on the farm.
The following is an interview with David and Lynda.
Tell about the state of dairy farms in Kansas.
“Currently there are 209 dairy farms in Kansas and while we may have lost numbers of dairy farming operations, we are growing in cow numbers with Kansas currently having about 142,000 mature milking cows,” Lynda Foster said. “Kansas is ranked 15th in the nation.”
“There is a new Hillmar Cheese plant in construction expected to come online in about 2.5 years from now, where we also expect to see an additional 100,000 cows to be added to the state,” she said.
The Hillmar Cheese Processing Plant will be a state-of-the-art facility in Dodge City, in western Kansas.
How did the pandemic effect your farm?

“We experienced primarily supply chain disruptions,” David Foster said. “It didn’t change the work that needed to be done daily. We still traveled to get supplies like alfalfa, and feed and mineral. It canceled annual meetings in organizations that we are a part of. Like everyone, there were certain precautions that were to be made if someone got sick.”

What is happening now in the industry?
“Exports are still up,  and expected to be higher this year, 1 in 6 semi tanker loads of milk gets exported” Lynda said.
“Milk prices are on the rise and setting records in some areas, so are a lot of our inputs, especially feeds, fertilizers, fuels – all of these input costs are outpacing the increased milk price,” she said. “Some of the most notable current events in the dairy industry was, of course, the baby formula shortage.”
What is on the horizon for the dairy industry from your perspective?
“I believe that we will continue to see consolidation, dairy farms getting larger, smaller farms disappearing,” David said.  “I believe that the days of families deriving their sole income from the dairy are gone. Today, a farmer on a smaller dairy, less than 300 cows, needs a spouse off-farm to make it and provide for their families additional income as well as health insurance.”
“Automated Milking Systems will continue to grow in use and will allow farms to alleviate the woes associated with a depleted/barely existent labor market,” he said. “Recent reports showed that for every person that doesn’t have a job, there are 2 jobs available.  This means that farming operations struggle to compete in wages against other industries and also struggle to entice labor due to the traditional physical demands and long hours of a farming operation.”
Automatic, or robotic,milking systems usually operate without someone being present to supervise the milking process and have been in use for the past decade on commercial farms, according to
The Foster’s have an automated milking system that allows the cows to come in at will when they need milked. Submitted photo.
“I believe that you will see dairy farms continue to diversify operations to include other agricultural ventures that complement milking and farming, such as trucking or custom harvest, and hay operations,” he said.
  “Technologies such as methane digestors will allow a value-added return from cow manure and allow dairies to derive additional profits,” David said. “Dairies will utilize solar and wind to reduce peak energy costs.”
“I am always probing and putting efforts into exploring options for emerging technologies that would make our operation more efficient,” David said.  “The goal of sustainability is always to do more with less. We are the only dairy left in Bourbon County and one of a few left in all of southeast Kansas. There may be interest in adding on-farm processing in the future to serve the needs of this 4-state area with a local, quality, nutritional product.”
“I believe with food shortages touted and supply disruptions experienced, we will continue to feel an increasing demand for consumers to want to source local,” he said. “We saw this ramp up significantly in the beef industry as consumers wanted to buy direct from the farmer. We see this in farmer’s markets. Other areas have supported their local operations, and we may not be far from considering, but to expand our operations to include processing, or other technologies, we have to expand our team of people that can share our vision and hopes for a better future.”
“Some of the biggest obstacles I see for dairy and maybe shared by all businesses, will be labor, inflation, which is then tied to interest and increased taxes, and supply prices and availability,” David said.

Bo Co Jail Inmates Moved to Other Counties

The jail is known as the Bourbon County Law Enforcement Center, Fort Scott.

Bourbon County Jail inmates are being sent to other counties, according to the Bourbon County Law Enforcement Center Administrator.

“The Bourbon County Jail will be farming out most, if not all, of their inmates to other counties in southeast Kansas,” said Major Bobby Reed in an email with the daily reports sent to news entities. “The facility is doing this because of staffing shortages.”

“Approximately 56 inmates out of 65 are being housed elsewhere,” Reed noted to”The cost (to the county) is $40 per day per inmate.”

That amounts to $2,240 per day in payments to other counties, by Bourbon County.

Yesterday six inmates were transferred to another county, according to today’s Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office report.

Inmate’s families are not being notified ahead of the transfers, due to security reasons, Reed said.

Staffing is at a critical point.

“I have 16 positions when fully staffed,” he said.   “I have not been fully staffed in a long time. Twelve employees is the minimum to operate the jail 24/7.   That is 3 per shift.   Next Tuesday I will be down to 8 employees.”

Low wages are what seems to be making the employee retention critical.

“Starting Correctional officer’s make $12.50 per hour,” Reed said.   “(Bourbon County) Correctional Officers can get pay increases through the rank structure and a sargent makes $13.80 per hour.  I can not retain employees because of the low pay.  Then the employees that I have are getting worked all the time and are getting burnt out then they are resigning.”

People making $12.50 per hour, 40  hours a week make $500 a week. $500 times 52 weeks in a year is $26,000.

“Money wise, that is a commissioner and finance question,” Reed said.

He said the county offers standard benefits of eye, health, dental , major medical, sick time and vacation.

“I can not make people apply and I can not make people work,” Reed said.

“In my opinion the solution is to increase the pay,” he said.  “But to what, I don’t know. Agencies that start out at $15/hour are having issues retaining and hiring and agencies that start out at $17 are having the same issues.”

“Jails are being short staffed through out the nation…I know it is in Kansas,” Reed said.   “I think we are the first county in Kansas that has had to drastically reduce our numbers of inmates because of staffing issues.”