Date of this Version
From the Keeping it Rural Conference, held by the BC Rural Centre, October 7-8, 2019.
Provided by the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2019.
Leadership, entrepreneurship, wealth retention and youth development are all pieces of the recent successes of Onaga, Kansas, a very rural community of 704 people. Driving down Kansas Highway 16 and seeing the sign “Onaga, next five exits” would make you think it’s a large town. Indeed, it isn’t. But it’s the brainstorm of community developers who propose that adding such a series of signs would encourage more travelers to stop in.
“Onaga has a lot of assets that other communities would die for!” That is the sentiment of the part-time community development specialist for Onaga. This kind of sentiment is reflected in the philosophy of HomeTown Competitiveness (HTC), a collaboration between three partnering organizations in Nebraska, including the Heartland Center for Leadership Development. This philosophy is embedded in four “pillars” of youth, entrepreneurship, leadership and community philanthropy. County-wide, the HTC initiative has taken root in each of the pillar areas. In fact, a foundation has been established that has raised over $1 million dollars in only 20 months, with 13 affiliated local funds.
After many attended an HTC Academy, a group of Onaga citizens banded together to establish goals in eight categories including transportation, communications, quality of life, business and industry, agriculture, housing, population/school enrollment and tourism.
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