EDC Director Mickey Fornaro-Dean

EDC Director Mickey Fornaro-Dean (facing camera) talks about upcoming economic development projects for Junction City.

An announcement may take place about a positive economic development move for Junction City within the next few weeks, according to Economic Development Commission Director Mickey Fornaro-Dean.

A project she has billed as “project quantum” has moved forward, she said. Fornaro-Dean said she would likely start rolling the project out to the public some time in mid-to-late August.

“That is a 21st Century economic development project,” she said. “It’s not your typical (project) — but it’s very exciting.”

She did not disclose the details of the project.

“I can’t wait until all of you can know more specifically,” she said, addressing the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. “The interest that this community is getting as a result of this project is unbelievable and I think that it’s really going to speak to all of you when I can give you more information about that, but it’s just very exciting.”

The city has planned to contribute money to the project if and when it comes to fruition, committing a total of $225,000.

“One of our partners — in effort of full disclosure — has invested almost ($500,000),” in quantum Fornaro-Dean said.

Fornaro-Dean codenames her economic development projects so she can speak about them publicly in limited detail. Economic development is a competitive and secretive field, according to Fornaro-Dean, and businesses will not work with EDCs that speak openly about projects.

Other projects still ongoing are project cobra which Fornaro-Dean said could result in 20 or more manufacturing jobs and project Apollo which has been revealed to be Honor Screen Printing continues along as well, looking at possible expansion and the addition of more employees.

Veterans Home Project

At a recent Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce meeting, the board did not have a quorum and therefore could not vote on anything, but past and upcoming projects were discussed.

During the meeting, Fornaro-Dean and Military Affairs Council Director Craig Bender also talked about a veterans home that had been proposed for Kansas veterans.

Fornaro-Dean said a committee is being assembled to attempt to bring the veterans home to Junction City.

The home is designated for Northeast Kansas and so Junction City will compete with bigger communities including Kansas City for the project.

She said she had run into some skepticism from people asking “Junction City doesn’t have a shot at this, why would you even go after it?”

“My comment was, ‘I think whether we have a shot or don’t have a shot, we would be extremely remiss in this community if we did not go after the next veterans’ home for the State of Kansas,’” she said. “I’ve been really open about this.”

Fornaro-Dean said she had chosen not to codename the project the way she typically does because she believes it would be more beneficial not to.

“I want us all to be talking about it,” she said. “When I heard that from these select people, I said ‘no.’ I said “I think we need to go after it, I think we need to talk it up and we need to be as determined as we possibly can and not think that just because Northeast Kansas means Kansas City we aren’t going to have a shot.’”

The facility, when built, will likely be somewhere between 75,000 to 90,000 square feet, between 115 and 125 beds and employ between 100 and 120 state employees, according to Fornaro-Dean.

Federal funds to be provided for the project will total $35 million, Fornaro-Dean said.

The RFP for the project has not been released yet, she said, but she wants to plan in advance before going after it.

According to both Fornaro-Dean and Bender, this could be a highly political project.

“I agree with everyone on the fact that it’s going to be a political pull,” Fornaro-Dean said. “But I think we would be almost embarrassingly remiss if as the home of the largest military installation in the state, we don’t make a strong play for it.”

USD 475 programs

Superintendent of USD 475 Reginald Eggleston said Junction City High School wants to partner with Cloud County Community College on the college’s new nursing program in the hopes of providing an internship program at JCHS where students could begin their nursing degrees while still in high school.

“We’re hoping that we’ll have a lot of real-life opportunities for young people moving forward,” he said.

Eggleston said the district hoped to put a computer science program at the Junction City Middle School so students could go into high school and eventually college or the workforce with knowledge of coding and important other processes.

“We’re trying to see if we can start that pipeline so we can have individuals finishing K-12 with a few extra certifications,” he said.

Chamber board member Mark Powers said he was supportive of the push to add more training at USD 475 and encouraged USD 475 to be open to partnerships with outside organizations.

“To me, when Manhattan has 450 seniors that are getting more training than the high school has so that they’re more prepared for success, we’re missing the boat somewhere,” he said. “We need to be doing the same, I feel. So I encourage that moving forward because we’ve got to have our high school graduates a little more ready to work if they’re not college-bound.”

Upcoming events

Terry Butler of Junction City Main Street attended the meeting and updated those present on upcoming events.

She said Aug. 19 and 20, the Kansas Main Street Group would be in Junction City to meet with local Main Street officials.

Junction City’s first Oktoberfest will take place Oct. 8 and 9 and Oct. 9 a Volksmarch — a German-style walking 5K — will take place, Butler said.

According to Bender, the MAC will continue hosting Grub and Grooves — a monthly food truck festival with live music — for the foreseeable future because no one else has shown interest in hosting the event.

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