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  • 4 Oct 2020 6:47 AM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    From September 16, 2020 Independence Daily Reporter

    Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

    Identity theft came knocking recently. I first heard it on September ninth although it had to have started at some point before the fourth. I’ve opened the door with the security chain in place and when I figured out what had happened, I closed the door and now I’m adding extra locks. I think I caught it before any damage has been done to my credit rating or my bank accounts. 

    With Increase COVID Aid Comes Increased Identity Fraud 

    Although I’m not a financial expert, I decided to tell this story as a way to encourage you to sharpen your senses and be more vigilant than ever in watching for signs that someone is messing with your credit or worse, your financial accounts. Identity theft has been on the rise for years. Now, with federal money flowing heavily to try to help the unemployed and stressed small businesses, the bad guys are trying to get their hands on as much of the bounty as they can. 

    On September 11, I was not feeling well and had a COVID test. I never did become very ill but waited the entire weekend until Monday morning to find out I was negative. By then, the symptoms had tapered off and I was lethargic until coming back to 99% on Wednesday. 

    “Your Unemployment Claim is Being Processed” 

    Meanwhile on Saturday, the 12th, I received a notice from the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL.) At first, I thought it was a “here’s what you might expect in unemployment benefits should you be laid off” but on closer inspection, it actually said “your application for benefits has been received and is being processed.” Whoa, as far as I knew, I was still employed, and I certainly didn’t file for unemployment benefits. My employer reached out to KDOL and, along with assurance that I was indeed still employed, provided me with this link- https://www.dol.ks.gov/fraud. It was my starting point for what’s become a rather lengthy checklist of locks, freezes and alerts to stop any further fraudulent use of my social security number. My hope is that the rest of this story might help you develop your own checklist in the event you think your social security number has been compromised. Early-on, you should consult with your financial advisor and maybe banker to refine your checklist. 

    Several years ago, we signed up with an identity theft protection company called Zander. It is endorsed, or perhaps owned by, Dave Ramsey. We think he is reputable, so we felt good about picking Zander from the plethora of mostly unknown protection companies. Fortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any financial damage so although we’ve notified them, there likely won’t be a recovery claim. 

    Stopping ID Theft Early 

    After filing a fraud report with KDOL, the next step was to contact the three credit reporting bureaus; Equifax, Transunion and Experian. I found out that for each, I could create a free online account and check my credit report on each in real time. I used the exact web address provided by KDOL to find their sites. I didn’t want to take a chance on Googling them by name and picking some look-alike clone site run by bad guys. The only thing I found that was suspicious was that the US Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance had made a “hard” inquiry into my credit report on September 4. I have been fortunate not to have had any disasters so I certainly didn’t apply for any benefits that would have caused them to need to check my credit report. I also found out that you can request a “fraud alert” be placed on your credit record. That means that when you apply for credit, the lender will be alerted to be extra careful to check your identity. You also can request a credit freeze which means no lenders can check your report without you temporarily lifting the freeze. We don’t apply for a lot of credit so elected to freeze my report. We will plan to keep it frozen permanently except for such rare times when we might buy a car or open a new account of some kind. 

    Besides filing the initial fraud report with KDOL and locking my credit record, I’m in the process of filing fraud alerts with the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Federal Trade Commission, Small Business Administration and any providers of bank or investment accounts that would have used my social security number. 

    Tips for Everyone, ID Theft or Not 

    Here are my tips, whether you think your identity has been compromised or not. 1. Order the free credit report from each of the three bureaus, reviewing for errors. 2. Set up a freeze on your credit report, even though that will take some extra effort each time you buy a house, car, cell phone contract or apply for a credit card. 3. Pay immediate attention to what you receive in the mail. Wade through the junk, looking for individual notices from state or federal agencies that might indicate someone is using your identity. 4. Be suspicious of email from state and federal agencies. None of them do any detailed, personal business through email inquiries. 5. Although best to reconcile each account, at least review your bank and credit card transactions regularly, looking for transactions you didn’t initiate. 

  • 24 Feb 2020 6:19 AM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

    A growing number of retail businesses know about becoming a destination. Being a destination means that something about a business is so unique, exceptional and/or compelling that people will go beyond normal efforts to go to the business. Efforts to become destinations should not be limited just to retail businesses. Our businesses, organizations, attractions, hospitals, and schools should all strive to become destinations. As more and more entities become destinations, a “critical mass” occurs and cities within a region and indeed, the region itself, becomes a destination. As people come to the destination, they bring with them dollars to spend and thus economic prosperity for the region.

    People Go Far for a Great Experience

    If you normally spend up to fifteen minutes getting to your usual restaurants, perhaps there is one restaurant that is so good you’re willing to travel for up to one or even two hours to get there.  That would be considered a destination restaurant for you. A destination restaurant has figured out a way to do something extraordinary to be worth your extra effort.  Most of the time, this requires more than just good food.

    Becoming a destination has to do with the way people; i.e. customers, clients, patients, citizens, students, and visitors are treated as they seek solutions for their problems and needs. Each entity has to figure out exceptional ways to meet those needs in ways so much better than the competition that people will go out of their way to purchase the solutions. This is where innovation comes in. Sometimes innovation can be a totally new product or service, but many times innovation can be changing an existing product or service to provide new and better ways of solving people’s problems and meeting their needs.

    How to Become a Destination

    What is required to become a destination varies widely based on the type of entity.  Helping businesses and entities become destinations is an important component of the Growth Accelerator Program at Fab Lab ICC.  We’ve partnered with E-Community, a Network Kansas initiative to promote and facilitate the help of an internationally recognized destination expert, Jon Schallert, and two of his programs; “Destination Boot Camp (DBC)” and “New Rules of Business Success (NRBS).” The goal of both programs is to help businesses and organizations transform themselves into “Destinations.”

    During DBC, participants spend 2 ½ days with Jon in Longmont, Colorado learning “how to reinvent their businesses and marketplaces.”  Jon spent 10 years in marketing at Hallmark before starting his own business in 1996, launching Destination Boot Camp in 2002.  During this time, he’s helped thousands of business owners and other leaders figure out how to make their entities destinations.

    How-To Coming to Independence, Mar. 11 and 12.

    In 2018, Network Kansas requested that Jon develop a distilled version of his destination strategies and bring them to Kansas for folks who had not had the opportunity to travel to Longmont for DBC. New Rules of Business Success made its debut in Kansas in October of 2018 in Marion, sponsored by the Marion/Hillsboro E-Community (Entrepreneurial Community is an initiative of Network Kansas.) Since then, there have been two other NRBS events in Kansas and we are pleased to be hosting the fourth in Independence on March 11 and 12. The 2-day event will conclude at 2:30 on the 12th. Both days will include breakfast, lunch and strategies that businesses and organizations can begin to use immediately to grow.

    There are no geographic limits regarding who can participate.  Promoting our businesses, cities and other entities to be innovative in becoming destinations in their own right, will help our region become a destination for customers, visitors, entrepreneurs and businesses.

    Fab Lab ICC is pleased to be one of the sponsors of New Rules for Business Success in Independence on March 11 and 12, and we are handling registrations and inquiries through our web site at www.fablabicc.org.

    Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com.

  • 15 Feb 2020 2:08 PM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    Julie Eisele always knew she wanted to do her own thing; that is, have her own business, she just didn’t know how that would come about. She and her sister had set up all kinds of stores along the sidewalk, one where they made crosses out of sticks, selling them to neighbors. That gave her an early taste of the satisfaction of adding value to something and exchanging it with a customer for something else of value; cash. Out of high school, she elected not to go to college instead engaging in various kinds of jobs including a big one of raising a couple of kids. Eventually she obtained her real estate license and then the opportunities started coming.

    Starting New Business In A Recession

    In 2009, a year after one of the biggest economic recessions many of us will remember, she and husband George were saving money to build a garage. Julie was working as a real estate agent in this local market that had not recovered from 2008. The broker talked to Julie about buying the business. She went home to talk it over with George to which he calmly asked, “Are you nuts?” On many levels, it seemed like a crazy idea. One, other than the sidewalk businesses as a kid, Julie had no experience owning and operating a business. Two, there was the residual effect of the recession. Three, there would be the money required to buy the business. Still, Julie just thought that if she could make it work at this point in time, she should be able to make it over the long haul. They put their garage project on hold so the couple could use the money to buy Midwest Real Estate in 2009.

    Importance of First Impressions

    With no business ownership experience other than the sidewalk stores as a young girl, Julie set about working 16 to 18-hour days learning accounting, management and all other aspects of running a busy real estate brokerage. One of the first things Julie did was begin to change the “brand” of the office. The receptionist station was made up of three non-matching desk components that were duct-taped together. The receptionist faced away from the entry door. She used some of the garage money to purchase new computers and workstations. She wants her offices to have a welcoming “homey” feel. She knows the importance of first impressions and pays a lot of attention to the look and feel of the facilities.

    She is an active member in all communities where she operates, understanding that everyone has an obligation to be active in community service in order for them to be great places to live and work.

    Opportunities continued to come with the creation of an auction company to aid people in selling their property and a rental company to manage their rental properties. In 2016, Julie opened her third office in Fredonia. In 2019, she recognized an opportunity and need, opening the first full-house air B&B (Bed and Breakfast) in Independence.

    Gut Feeling Decision-Making

    Julie has since hired an accounting firm, so she doesn’t have to do the books herself. She feels that what she learned in the beginning gives her a better knowledge and appreciation of her company’s financial information and the role the accountants can play in her ability to successfully manage the business. She uses her gut feeling to make decisions and says the few times she didn’t trust her gut, she’s regretted. In a world professing “data driven decision-making,” Julie is one of the first entrepreneurs I’ve heard come out of the closet and admit to using gut instinct.

    She doesn’t compete with her agents. She looks at her role as one of a servant leader, sending leads their way and making sure the business is managed in a way that will make the agents successful. The agents have the freedom to turn down any listings that don’t fit the business model.

    It took a few years, but Julie and George have started their garage project; they now have a concrete pad to park on although no garage yet. In spite of the cultural narrative presenting entrepreneurs as swash-buckling risk takers, throwing the dice on their business ideas, Julie is an example of how 98% of new businesses start, including those in the Fortune 500. Someone recognizes a need and makes a series of small bets, like garage money, to get the business started and then adjusts the model to fit the needs of the market.

    Listen to my podcast interview with Julie. Google Correll Files podcast.

    Youth Entrepreneur Challenge - $1,000 First Prize

    An entrepreneurial experience in our youth can do a lot to set us up for success as an adult. All area youth are invited to compete in the Youth Entrepreneur Challenge sponsored by Montgomery County E-Community. The competition ends mid-February. Follow the links at www.fablabicc.org for registration information.

    Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com.

  • 27 Nov 2019 8:52 AM | Shelley Paasch

    Shelley Paasch, Manager, Rural Entrepreneurship, NetWork Kansas

    On the heels of my colleague’s stirring blog on the maker space boot camp she attended, this past fall (thank you Sarah LaRosh)…let me keep the inspiration going.  When I say “me,” I mean an innovative community member in Chase County, Jenn Laird with her business, Authenticity Inspired.

    Jenn is our E-Community point-person in Chase County and has been ON FIRE (cue Alicia Keys, Girl on Fire song)!  Apologies to my colleagues who have been referencing movies, as I have now changed the referencing to music.

    Jenn attended the makerspace community boot camp this past September at the Fab Lab @ Independence Community College, Independence, Kansas.  She adopted the wind turbine that Fab Lab Manager Tim Haynes was planning to throw away, which is leading to a great community event scheduled for Saturday, November 23 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in downtown Cottonwood Falls.

    How the story begins, though, is quite interesting.

    Jenn has given new life to this particular wind turbine in Chase County, Kansas (population 2,683).  She “volunTOLD” her husband to figure out why the wind turbine was not working. Several voltage tests helped— as did his background in automotive mechanics.  Jenn was inclusive and collaborative, first, by using the high school physics class. They recently tested the first blade designs using a small DC motor as well as using a 3D printer and are continuing to test designs before scaling them up. She also engaged the biology and earth science class where the project will become based on learning about wind energy and the ecosystem.  She is planning on this ‘conversation starter’ to have its public debut at the community’s first entrepreneurial tailgate on November 23rd.  At this event, she will speak on her experience of the Fab Lab/maker space concept, hand out entrepreneurial mindset books, entertain the crowd with floats decorated in the streets, educate, empower and engage anyone who will listen.

    Jenn is surrounded by a team of entrepreneurial thinkers in Chase County from bankers, small business development center members, business owners, chamber workers, the local USD 284 and Suzan Barnes, owner of the Grand Central Hotel & Grill, who was a founding member of the NetWork Kansas board, and who still serves actively.  This group is spreading the entrepreneurial mindset throughout the community as well as the school district assisting business owners who desire to make their business so compellingly distinctive that consumers say, “I must go there!”  Additionally, they offer courses that instill confidence, life skills, critical thinking and problem solving for students through our Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. 

    Talk about focusing on your community.   

    Completing a community analysis earlier this year for Chase County, Don Macke, e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and team member of NetWork Kansas, recommended entrepreneur-focused development and actively reaching out to local business and entrepreneurs to assist with growth, expansion, and needs.  Well THIS is certainly happening!  

    It is also encouraging peer-to-peer interaction and not just by reaching out to our Kansas ‘experts’ at the Fab Lab with Jim Correll and Tim Haynes.  Jenn has reached out to another rockstar in our E-Community world, Lea Ann Seiler, in Hodgeman County, to educate herself with what is working in her community with their maker space.

    When I overhear Jenn saying “I love it when networking helps 'all boats rise'” it makes me smile and gives me a sense of ease and pride that I am exactly where I should be in working with NetWork Kansas.  Our mission is to establish an entrepreneurial environment in our state, where we strive to support both communities and businesses that are working toward this shared goal.  I can honestly say, I believe, whole-heartedly and passionately this is happening in our state.

    So, MUST you go there?  You can find Chase County in the heart of the Flint Hills off US 50 and KS 177.  As many of you know, I am terrible with directions, so you may want to check Google Maps first.

  • 27 Nov 2019 8:23 AM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    After completing the Entrepreneurial Mindset class featuring the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program, Nancy Kishpaugh had this to say about the life-effect of her change in mindset.

    I recommend this class to everyone! It can change your life if you let it. I didn't know what an entrepreneur was until I took this class. I thought it meant you had to have lots of money, have wealthy friends, and that it took a long time to earn the title. What I learned in class is that being an entrepreneur is simply a way of thinking. It's looking at things and seeing opportunities instead of obstacles. It is about freeing your brain from what you thought you knew and letting yourself think about the possibilities. Sometimes when people brainstorm a problem, they get hung up right away because they see all the reasons why they can't do something instead of looking for ways in which they could. Figure out where you want to go and then the pieces will begin to fall into place.

    When I took the class, about 2-3 weeks in, I noticed a shift in my thinking. I was looking for solutions and was not so bound up in the negatives of the problem, whatever it was. My boss said she noticed a change in me and so did my husband (who also took the class). I have been much more positive in my thinking. I've gotten involved in community organizations, doors have opened to me, and I am pursuing my passions, and I am happier in general. I worry less about how I'm going to live my life and think more about what's important to me.

    I got to go to Destination Bootcamp in Longmont, Colorado, where I met a number of people from my hometown of Atchison, Kansas. They are reenergizing Atchison through innovative thinking, in much the same way we are doing in Independence. I was a member of the 2019 class of Leadership Independence. I am a member of the Board of the Independence Historical Museum, the Imagination Library, and the Astra Festival. I helped plan Miss Able Days in Independence and am now a member of the team planning the Independence sesquicentennial (150 years) celebration. I am pursuing my love of photography and I've learned to paint as a member of the Eclectix artist's coop.

    My passion is a project to honor the 60 servicemen from Independence who were killed in WWII and Korea and were not returned home. These men gave their lives for us, they weren't returned to their families back home, and they deserve more than a white wooden cross at Mount Hope Cemetery, that doesn't even have their name on it. I am going to obtain permanent white marble markers for each man and I am going to put faces to the names with an exhibit here at the library. I volunteered to work at the Inge Festival for the first time this year (it was awesome!) and as a result, I am also looking for a playwright to take my research and give the lost men their voices back. A play is a powerful vehicle to do that!

    Ice House also changed the way I work in my full-time day job at the Independence Public Library. I always had ideas but thought they were probably dumb ones because they were different and people looked at me strangely. Now I understand I was simply being creative. My boss and several of my coworkers have also taken the Ice House class. It helps to hang out with other creative people. We've made changes here at the library and will continue to do so, with an eye towards how we can best serve the community.

    So, again, the answer is yes. I highly recommend the Ice House class. It unleashed changes in me and there's no going back!

  • 8 Nov 2019 10:57 AM | SARAH LAROSH

    makerspace blogThe discovery of something new, different, cutting edge, or perhaps even extraordinary is rare and pushes the limits of our imagination and comprehension. Although NetWork Kansas does not add new board certified programs very often, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a wealth of great programs out there. It is our intent with board certified programs that they be replicable across the state, entrepreneurial, impactful, and sustainable.

    I had the privilege of attending the Fab Lab ICC Maker Space Boot Camp in Independence during their Fall session. To say I left with a deep understanding of the vast possibilities of maker spaces would be a lie. To say that I now have an appreciation, more understanding, and extreme passion for maker spaces would be the absolute truth!

    Erik Pedersen once started a blog with a quote and comparison to a movie. With three young children in my house, we don’t watch as much “Wedding Crashers” as we do Disney movies. Nonetheless, I feel that connecting experiences and emotions with thoughts and education can be very powerful, so I will link my experience with Maker Space Boot Camp with the famous (in my household) movie, “Ratatoullie”. In Ratatoullie, Anton Ego’s critique of Chef Gusteau’s restaurant discussed the vulnerability of discovering something new or different. He describes it as the only risk and vulnerability of critiques: when they find and stand behind something new.

    I feel the staff at Fab Lab ICC are cutting edge and “new.” I am proud of NetWork Kansas for standing behind them and embracing this program. At Fab Lab ICC, you get to design, create, and build. This has proven to be replicable regardless of geography and it’s entrepreneurial, impactful, and sustainable. I don’t consider myself a crafty individual, however, I felt such a sense of accomplishment when I designed, created, and built at Fab Lab. I can only imagine the thrill and accomplishments that true artists, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers get when they walk in the Fab Lab and start making magic happen!


    Even better, maker spaces allow entrepreneurs access to equipment they may not have been able to purchase up front and give them the ability to test the market before getting a big loan. A maker space in a rural community could allow entrepreneurs of all ages freedom to experiment with new technology and extend the reach of their financing. More active entrepreneurs in communities mean a more vibrant and sustainable economy.

    My dream, desire, and passion is that more of Kansas can experience this life changing boot camp. I would like to encourage dreamers, doers, and creators across Kansas to make the trip to Independence and participate in this truly spectacular experience. For more information or to pre-register for the upcoming class go to: https://fablabicc.wildapricot.org/Pre-Registration or contact Jim Correll, Director of Fab Lab ICC, at (620) 252-5349.

  • 23 Oct 2019 11:47 AM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

    Many know that I believe there should be a Fab Lab or maker space in every rural community in Kansas. My guest columnist today is Lea Ann Seiler, director of Hodgeman County Economic Development, north of Dodge City in western Kansas. She has made much progress in a year and one half to bring a maker space to her community and her traction started with area youth.

    "I first attended the Fab Lab Community Bootcamp in the winter of 2018. (I think it may have even been the very first one.) I loved it. It was great! I was so excited that I stayed up late in my hotel room making plans, so when I got back home, I would be READY. In fact, by the time I drove back to Western Kansas (in an ice storm), I was thoroughly convinced that everyone in my community would be excited in the same way…ready to jump on board and “recreate” this amazing place in Hodgeman County. Imagine my surprise when people were not quite as receptive as I was. I am not exaggerating when I say I was beyond disbelief and sad at the same time. I mean, I have a great Board. Our community is filled with creative, intelligent people. We aren’t made of money, but we are creative and can usually find a way to do something if it is important to us. I sang the praises of the Fab Lab loud and clear. Every chance I got…I pointed out all of the things that we could “do for ourselves” if we had the same equipment. I talked to teenagers and pointed out entrepreneurial opportunities. But still, I wasn’t getting the same reaction I expected….the excitement was definitely missing. I was cautioned that “the Fab Lab is at a Community College…we don’t have a Community College”. 

    "So, I did what I usually do when I hit a brick wall …I looked for a way around it. (That whole “begging for forgiveness rather than waiting for permission thing”? It’s a good thing!) I started thinking about how we could get the kids in the community excited – knowing that when they were, it would surely spread to their parents and grandparents. By the time this “lightbulb” went off….it was already summer. I quickly searched for available dates and planned a camp. The camp would be for youth 2nd through 6th grade and would be held at our Business and Culinary Incubator. Network Kansas graciously agreed to help me out with part of the costs, and I designed flyers; got it out on Face Book; and started planning. I thought it would be great to offer some of the great things I had learned about at the Fab Lab, so I ordered a few Arduino kits; and I am fascinated with 3D Printing, so I added 3D Printing to the camp rotation too. THEN, I remembered that I didn’t really have any experience beyond my 30-minute Arduino experience at the Fab Lab….and did not own a 3D printer. (Details like this tend to get in the way.)  I called my friends at the Kiowa County Media Center and talked them into helping me….Mike offered to bring his 3D Printers and teach 3D Printing, and Grant agreed to teach Podcasting. Simone and Anne, from Network Kansas, also agreed to help teach a rotation on “Thinking Entrepreneurially”. We were almost set. Fear set in. I still didn’t have anyone who could help with coding. Then, exactly 10 days before the camp…while I was still frantically contacting people from all over the state….a young lady who had just graduated from college called. She said that she had seen my Face Book posts about the camp and wondered if I could use any help with coding. “She had some time that week and would love to help.” (I later found out that her wedding was that week as well!) I was beyond excited! Up until that point, I was pretty much convinced that this was going to be a spectacular failure and that it would be long remembered. (I have a few spectacular failures like that.) Camp week came, and I lost a couple of volunteers, due to work schedules and illness, but we did it on a skeleton crew and it was a HUGE success! Actually, the things that didn’t work out the way I had intended, didn’t even get noticed by anyone else. Finally! Kids were excited, parents were calling and writing notes – wanting to make sure that their kids would be on the mailing list for the next camp. Adults were asking questions about the equipment and how we might get it here full-time. 

    "Since then, I’ve written a few small grants and have been fundraising (WeKAN) for equipment. Jim and Joanne brought out the mobile Fab Lab for demonstrations (another Network Kansas grant). This summer we held two more camps and set up a “mini-camp” at the County Fair. Soon, our Laser Engraver will be added to the 3D Printers; Arduino and robotic kits; engineering challenges; embroidery machine; and vinyl cutters that have been collected so far for the Maker Space. It’s FINALLY coming together.  I’m pretty sure that there will be a few more challenges, such as maintaining the equipment (which I’m learning) and training/keeping volunteers so we can be open on a regular basis. However, I’ll always be thankful to Jim, Tim and Joanne for planting that BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) in my brain and to Network Kansas for the grant to get me there in the first place! My advice? Don’t get discouraged if your community isn’t quite ready, remember, they may not have visited the Fab Lab yet. Don’t feel like you have to wait until you’re ready….or it may never happen. Just jump in and get started….it will come together in a way that may be smaller but will still be impactful in your community."

    Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com.

  • 16 Oct 2019 6:47 AM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

    In part 1, we discussed the entropy of downtown buildings and districts and about how the National Main Street purpose is to provide for the preservation of these historic buildings through revitalizing our downtown districts. The idea is that revitalization of business districts will provide enough revenue for both the sustainability of downtown businesses and the maintenance of the downtown buildings.

    Our historic buildings didn’t decay rapidly and, in most cases, reversing decades of downtown building entropy rarely happens quickly. Building conditions are on a continuum ranging from near collapse on the left end to fully restored to modern safety and building codes on the right. Most likely, eighty-five percent of the buildings in our Kansas rural communities are in conditions on the continuum somewhere from one-third to one-half from the left. Most are moving to the left with every passing year. Once the outer “envelope” has been compromised—failure of roof and exterior walls to keep out the elements—the slide to the left of the continuum accelerates.

    Most of our related public policy, i.e. local and state laws, codes, ordinances and tax policy, are not conducive the building preservation. Public policy demands that anyone trying to fix up and repurpose a historic building reverse several decades of entropy in one expensive project moving the building condition all the way from the left half of the continuum to the extreme right end in one fell swoop. This is unnatural. If you think about it, our public policy actually impedes progress on building preservation with no practical approach to encourage a natural path to building preservation over time.

    I have an example of this right now involving one of the Lab’s growth accelerator clients. She wants to buy a building and fix it up for her business. She’s now learned that our public policy, from local ordinance to state safety laws make it more cost-effective to build new instead of fixing up the old. Is that really what we want? Policy that encourages building new instead of repurposing the old?

    Occasionally someone with deep pockets, sometimes with tax-payer assistance, restores a building transcending it from dilapidated to state-of-the-art all at once, but most building owners don’t have the resources to accomplish this leap in one initial effort. They need time for the business(es) within to grow and make enough money to support continued building improvements.

    As with the continuum of general building conditions, the fire risk associated with a building can also be thought of as being on a continuum; extreme fire risk at the left end and fully compliant with state-of-the-art fire safety features, as required for NEW buildings, on the right. Every rural downtown business district in Kansas and America includes buildings with fire risk near the left end of the continuum. While we may choose to debate whether or not it’s reasonable to subject a 100 year old building to the same fire safety specifications as required for new construction, surely there is somewhere in the middle or slightly right of center on the fire-risk continuum where we could all agree the building is safe enough to continue to use while other rehabilitation occurs over time.

    Maybe it’s time for us as a community and society to decide whether or not we’re really interested in preserving our historic buildings, especially in our downtown districts. If we are, we need to require that our policy makers; from state legislators, to local governing bodies, take a look at current policies that require an unnatural and prohibitively expensive one-fell-swoop approach to an approach that would require minimum building and safety standards in the beginning of the rehab process with gradual continuous improvement over time. 

    Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com.

  • 9 Oct 2019 6:44 AM | Jim Correll (Administrator)

    • Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

      I’ve always thought of entropy as the natural deterioration of things when left alone.  Following a technical physics definition, I found a secondary definition; 2. lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder. Entropy occurs in the natural order of things so much that we don’t notice. Plants and animals die and, one way or another, are returned, slowly, to natural elements. If you are spiritual and/or religious, you recognize entropy as an ingenious element of a universe designed by the Master. Entropy is essential to life as we know it. Imagine a world where dead vegetation and dead animals just continue to pile up, never returning to natural elements.

      Things we build are subject to entropy too. Homes, buildings, roads and all manner of things are subject to a natural return to the elements unless we maintain and repair them. Most of our downtown buildings were built in a different economic era when the businesses within them made enough money to reward the business owner while keeping the buildings in good repair. Entropy of our downtown buildings started with the urban, and maybe even rural, sprawl of the 1950’s when there was movement away from living near downtown areas in favor or the suburbs (i.e. the burbs.) Entropy of downtown buildings continues today with box stores and Internet sales constantly working to take away market share of downtown businesses thus leaving little money to keep buildings maintained.

      Many communities across America have huge efforts going on to revitalize downtown areas and reverse the entropy that has affected the downtown buildings for decades. The National Main Street program is one of the most visible and successful organizations providing guidance and structure to facilitate this rebirth.

      In 2007, I became involved in the effort for Coffeyville to become part of the Kansas Main Street program. I believe Independence was among the first five or six communities in Kansas to join the state’s new Main Street program in the 1980’s. Independence Main Street remains strong today. Sidebar: The Kansas Main Street program was foolishly discontinued during former Governor Sam Brownback’s administration. Starting next year, Governor Laura Kelly’s administration will be reinstating the program.

      In a competitive process to become a Kansas Main Street member, the organizing committee had to learn a lot about what the Main Street program was and that the main purpose of the program was to preserve historic buildings in the downtown areas around the state. The model is patterned after the four-point approach of the time-tested model of the National Main Street Trust program “Main Street America.”

    • ·      Economic Vitality
    • ·      Design
    • ·      Promotion
    • ·      Organization

    I’m going to self-interpret the four-point approach here, but you can see the “real” interpretations at www.mainstreet.org. The local main street organizations are supposed to perform work in all four areas. Promotion tends to be the most visible but work in the other three areas is essential for the viability of the local organizations.

    Economic Vitality – This point has to do with helping businesses become and remain viable to provide not only the money needed to survive and thrive but also to keep their buildings in good shape. Whether the business owns or rents the building, there has to be enough funds for upkeep whether directly or in the form of sufficient rent payments so the landlord can do the upkeep.

    Design – This point has to do with the overall design of the downtown main street areas and also includes guidelines and suggestions for the “look” of the buildings. For instance, where possible, real windows on the upper floors are preferable to the “boarded up” look.

    Promotion – The most visible aspect in communities with a main street organization. On-going Main Street promotions, around central themes, strive to get people to come to the downtown area with fun and interesting events and activities.

    Organization – This point has to do with legal structure and how the organization operates. Most Main Street groups have a paid Director and most of the other work is done by dedicated volunteers on the board of directors and work committees.

    The key to revitalizing and restoring our downtown buildings, indeed, our downtown districts is to make the districts viable business centers, making enough money to provide not only for the business owners but also to keep the buildings maintained.

    In part 2, we’ll take a look at how our laws, policies and ordinances are hindering and even preventing the revitalization and preservation of our historic downtown buildings and what changes we might consider to recognize that neither building entropy nor the reversal of entropy are quick propositions, but rather take place over time.

    Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com.

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