Last spring, students supervised by Assistant Professor Kate Nesse proposed several economic development steps for the community of Blue Township, Pottawatomie County, Kan. to address growth pushing out from neighboring Manhattan, Kan.
“The assignment is designed to get students to explore one strategy in depth in a specific context,” Nesse said. “The [students] often struggle at first to work out all of the details to make their recommendation work and usually one or two change their recommendation after the first draft (there are three drafts) because they realize that while a good idea generally, some detail will not work out in this particular context.”
The proposed economic development strategies focus on activities to influence how the economic growth of the region will impact this township. Blue Township is typical of many rural areas that are being absorbed into expanding metropolitan regions. The rapidly growing Manhattan area is transforming the face of the township faster than the residents can manage the changes.
“The highlight of the experience was the community input meeting which provided a lot of context to the problems in the area from actual residents,” said Amelia Lewis, a regional and community planning student.
Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation, PCEDC, sponsored the meeting and the project. The students presented the final report to the board, who were impressed with their creativity.
Through their work with the community and with the PCEDC, the students understood that economic development in this case meant a good deal more than just economic growth. The proposals range from a recommendation to incorporate the township to give the community a larger voice and greater control over the development process to suggestions for clustered commercial and residential development to maintain the remaining farm land. Most of the proposals tried to find ways to preserve the rural character of the township in the midst of the rapid development.
Within each of the proposals, the students identified who needed to be involved to make the proposal happen, how it would be funded and the mechanics of actually carrying out the proposal – all within three pages each. These proposals are not aspirational dreams of what the township could be like. They are concrete activities that the community can undertake immediately to change the direction of the local economy and community life.
The students who participated in the project include:
Amy Denker, MRCP ‘14; Joseph Foster, MRCP ’15; Everett Haynes, MRCP ‘16; Amelia Lewis, MRCP ‘16; Chase Sterling, undergraduate in the department of Geography; Jessica Weber, MRCP ’16; and Yihong Yan, MRCP ’16.