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Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Town uses technology to lure residents

Promotional CD touts attractions of northwest Kansas city

July 31, 2003

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— College student Kelli Ubelaker grew up in Osborne but says she never really knew what her hometown had to offer until she was hired this summer to help create a promotional compact disc about the northwest Kansas city.

Now, she's thinking of returning to Osborne to live when she finishes her studies at Fort Hays State University.

Officials hope other ex-residents as well as prospective newcomers will also consider Osborne in a new light when they receive the CD, which will feature photos and interviews with residents and business people explaining why they settled in the community of about 1,700 people.

The CD is a marketing tool in Osborne's campaign to reverse a population decline. The disc will be sent first to graduates of Osborne's schools and to former residents, then to companies that need high-speed Internet access. The city already has an extensive high-speed network in place for businesses, homes, schools and libraries.

Laura McClure, a former state representative who is now Osborne County's economic development director, believes the high-speed wiring gives Osborne an advantage over other rural communities trying to attract people and businesses.

"We have this window of opportunity, like every community our size and smaller. They know if we don't turn the migration, especially of our youth, around, in 10 years when they do another Census there will be fewer people, which means less representation," McClure said.

The CD is being produced by the Osborne office of Nex-Tech, a rural telephone company and Internet service provider.

Osborne's high-speed network access makes it possible for Andy Knoll to operate an Edward Jones Investments office in his hometown. He returned to Osborne after college because he and his wife wanted to raise their family in a small town and be near his relatives.

"This is the place I need to establish my roots. It just felt natural," said Knoll, who recently made a taped interview for the CD.

The high-speed Internet connection gives Knoll access to instant stock quotes and connects him to other Edward Jones offices, allowing him to offer investors the same services that big-city competitors can provide, he said.

Ulebaker, home from Fort Hays State for the summer, was hired by the city to do background work and initial interviews for the CD.

The work has opened Ulebaker's eyes to the realities of life in Osborne. She has heard success stories from business people and has learned, for example, that the community has more than 100 storefronts -- not the 30 or so she had estimated.

Ulebaker said she never would have considered coming back to Osborne after college, but is now rethinking the idea.

"This made me look more into it," she said. "All of my family is here."

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