Governor, KC Federal Reserve VP to join Docking Institute in kicking off new initiative
08/06/2004

Western Kansas Partnership, succeeding Docking Institute's popular
Telepower Conference, to focus on rural economies, quality-of-life issues

8/6/04 cr/kb

HAYS, KS -- Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will deliver the opening address at the inaugural Western Kansas Partnership Summit Sept. 8 at Fort Hays State University.

Like its predecessor, the annual Telepower Conference, the summit is an initiative of FHSU's Docking Institute for Public Affairs. The event will serve as the annual planning meeting of the recently launched Western Kansas Partnership -- a regional effort open to individuals and organizations from all economic sectors whose mission is to bring together public and private leaders for regional thinking, dialogue and action on economic and quality-of-life issues.

The summit's purpose is to lay the foundation for year-long activity that will provide citizens of western Kansas a collective legislative voice in Topeka. The inaugural summit will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sept. 8, in the Memorial Union on the FHSU campus.

"Telepower has been a resounding success, but like many good initiatives, it has effectively worked its way out of a job," said Dr. Brett Zollinger, director of the Docking Institute.

"It has achieved its purpose of creating a critical mass of dialogue on, knowledge of and implementation of IT (information technology) toward community and economic development in rural Kansas. The timing is right to explore a new public affairs initiative that promises to greatly impact the economy in western Kansas, the Western Kansas Partnership.?

The Docking Institute has dedicated itself to developing communities and economies of the region through research, planning, grants facilitation and public affairs programming. In the last category, the annual Telepower Conference has been a mainstay of the institute since 1992, exploring technological and legislative aspects of information technology and communications with an emphasis on applying information technology (IT) to community and economic development.

The underwriting sponsor of the Western Kansas Partnership Summit is Rural Telephone/Nex-Tech, a position consistent with its mission of supporting projects that improve the quality of life in western Kansas.

"Rural Telephone supported Telepower from 1995-2003 because of its focus on community and economic development through the use of telecommunications and information technology," said Larry Sevier, CEO and general manager of Rural Telephone.

"Now that Telepower has achieved its goal to help bridge the digital divide so that rural areas of the state have an understanding of how advanced information technology systems and telecommunications can promote community growth, we are pleased to assist in leading the way to support this new initiative. The partnership should help stimulate discussion and action to assist in revitalizing the economy in our area of the state."

The keynote speaker, to follow Gov. Sebelius, will be Dr. Mark Drabenstott, vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and director of the Center for the Study of Rural America, speaking on the "Top Ten Ways to Reinvent Rural Regions."
Western Kansas Partnership co-chairs will then provide an organizational overview and lead a discussion about priority areas for the 2004-2005 legislative cycle.

Attendees can participate in one of six afternoon work-group sessions: Comprehensive Energy Plan, Entrepreneurism Development, Marketing and Recruitment, Transportation, Value-Added Business (including biosciences) or Education and Workforce Development.

In the near term, the dialogue on regional priorities will help solidify the collective voice of western Kansas in the 2004-2005 legislative session in Topeka. In the long run, the partnership's activities will help western Kansas by providing a much needed forum for regional leaders from all sectors to work together at creating a more prosperous western Kansas.

Other organizations sponsoring the conference include Fort Hays State University, SBC, Kansas Small Business Development Centers, First National Bank of Goodland, Midwest Energy and Pioneer Electric.

"Telepower provided business owners, community leaders, educators and economic development officials the opportunity to connect with resources and hear first hand from business owners about how technology and the Internet contributed to the growth of their businesses and helped them operate more efficiently," said Wally Kearns, director of the Kansas Small Business Development Center.

"The Western Kansas Partnership Summit," he said, "will play a key role in developing a stronger entrepreneurial development environment and coordinated system to assist entrepreneurs, enabling northwest and southwest Kansas to enhance their quality of life."

"Already a variety of businesses have shown strong leadership in recognizing the value of thinking and acting regionally and have committed support from their organizations for this dynamic event," said Zollinger, the Docking Institute director.

"We western Kansans should thank these organizations for being good corporate citizens in our communities," he said.

Due to generous contributions from all summit sponsors, registration fees for the event are only $25 per person. For additional information or registration details, visit the Summit web site at www.fhsu.edu/docking/wkp or contact Casey Rackaway, special events coordinator, at (785) 628-5233 or ccrackaw@fhsu.edu.


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