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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

November 14, 2017

How John Forshee Makes a Difference in Community Vitality

Submitted by Nancy Daniels

John Forshee

In reflecting on his community vitality work, Forshee said, “I think the key to community vitality work is to throw the conversation out there and make yourself part of the opportunity when it comes by.” This philosophy is evident in his work in Belleville, where Forshee assisted in bringing the Kansas Forest Service to make a tree-planting recommendation to beautify the fairgrounds in preparation for Belleville’s 2019 Sesquicentennial and the Centennial of the Fair. The tree effort led to Forshee’s suggestion that Belleville participate with the First Impressions program, which led to improvements in signage and even more beautification efforts. In the process of participating in First Impressions follow-up planning, Forshee encouraged Belleville to consider joining the Kansas PRIDE Program. Forshee suggested that joining PRIDE would help the community promote the work accomplished by the First Impressions committees as they progress toward their future vision. Forshee credits CV specialist Nadine Sigle and PRIDE coordinator Jaime Menon for their help and hard work in Belleville, “It really did take all of us to pull this together.”

Recently, Forshee was honored by Kansas PRIDE at K-State Research and Extension’s Annual Conference for his work supporting the PRIDE Communities in his District: Belleville, Glasco and Wakefield.

Forshee uses his radio spots, newspaper and district newsletter articles to talk about possibilities and sometimes those opportunities come to fruition. First Impressions has been one of his subjects.

In Clay Center, the economic development director engaged K-State Architecture students to do a downtown study and write up recommendations. Forshee suggested that this would be an ideal time to get a fresh perspective from outsiders. The result? First Impressions.

Besides Belleville and Clay Center, Forshee is currently helping with First Impressions in Miltonvale and two other communities have expressed interest.

Forshee uses his Community Vitality Program Development Committee (PDC) for elevating ideas and bringing together partners. Having the right PDC members is the first strategic move. Many of the communities that are doing First Impressions heard about it from their economic development directors who serve on the PDC.

Forshee advises people who want to increase their Community Vitality work to “start by being intentional: talk about it, look for opportunities and make yourself available. Once you get some of those opportunities, more show up.”

Forshee told of a conversation he had with Dr. Todd Leif from Cloud County Community College while attending Concordia’s “Strategic Doing” planning. Dr. Leif wanted to start a Maker’s Space. Before the week was up, Forshee attended KSRE’s First Friday call and heard Heather Morgan talk about “How K-State can help your small business develop its E-Commerce Capacity.” He contacted Morgan after the call and they brainstormed about the resources that could be brought to the Maker’s Space idea. Forshee said, “One thing led to another and by the end of October we had secured a $1,500 planning grant from Kansas Crossroads RC&D and we submitted a $15,000 grant to Cloud County Community Foundation for local funding in preparation for going after larger grants from Hansen and possibly USDA Rural Development that will make the Maker’s Space a reality. We are using the RC&D’s 501(c)3 so that donations are deductible.”

Forshee’s other work includes hosting and playing a teaching role in the Board Leadership Series and being the president of the Kansas Crossroads RC&D.

Forshee credits Dr. Daryl Buchholz and Dr. Gregg Hadley for bringing more resources to help local communities. He said, “Five years ago we told them that if they were serious about community development, they’d have people doing it.” For him, having CV Specialists available for support makes a big difference. “I used to walk to the edge of the cliff and peek over to see what was there. Now, I run and jump over the edge knowing that someone from the Community Vitality team will be right behind me to support me.”