NetWork Kansas e-Community
Dennis Strobel knows finding funding for small business can be hard. He’s been there. As founder of CD Tradepost and multiple other entrepreneurial ventures, he knows financing makes or breaks a business. That’s one reason he and several other local business leaders and entrepreneurs have come together in hopes of making a tax credit-based financing plan for small business available in Topeka and Shawnee County.
While several initiatives are designed to help small business owners in Topeka, Strobel knows a creative financing option might make the difference between sink or swim for an entrepreneur.
“I have been an entrepreneur several times,” Strobel said. “I have been in the situation where financing was difficult to obtain. I’ve been in their shoes before and I know how it is.”
Strobel is one member of a leadership team partnering with the Shawnee County branch of the K-State Research & Extension office in hopes of bringing the NetWork Kansas Entrepreneurship (e) Communities program to Topeka and Shawnee County.
A NetWork Kansas e-Community is a partnership that allows a town, a cluster of towns, or an entire county to raise seed money for local entrepreneurs through donations from individuals or businesses within the community.
Donors receive a 75 percent state (Kansas) income tax credit for their donation. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar credit against income tax liability. This means that for every $1,000 donated, donors will receive a $750 state income tax credit. Donors may also be eligible for a federal deduction if they are able to itemize on their tax return. The minimum donation amount per year is $250 and the maximum donation is $66,667.
The tax credit program has been available in Kansas since 2007, but benefits from them were originally offered only to businesses in rural areas with populations less than 50,000. The program has been expanded to include parts of larger urban areas that are economically distressed, with 55 communities benefitting from funding through the program in 2016.
Cindy Evans, K-State Research and Extension director for Shawnee County, says that not only will business owners in smaller Shawnee County communities, such as Rossville and Silver Lake, be able to take advantage of the program, but that it will also be able to cover businesses in economically disadvantaged areas of Topeka. To be eligible, businesses must be in incorporated areas of the county. Evans hopes they can include everyone at some point in the future.
“We’re concerned about not being able to include Tecumseh, Berryton and Dover in this effort,” Evans said. “We want to try to help people who are ready to take the next step to be an entrepreneur and don’t want people to feel excluded. We will just have to keep looking for opportunities to serve them.”
Strobel joined the team because he believes Topeka and Shawnee County need more resources to help small business owners, and needs greater communication and coordination between those responsible for the resources that are available. He believes compared to Kansas City and Wichita, Topeka lags behind in supporting small business and placing weight on the importance of small business growth.
“Those markets are more developed because they have been working on it longer,” Strobel said. “Part of my personal endeavors is to try to help Topeka and Shawnee County catch-up. If any gains that can be achieved to help Topeka and Shawnee county catch up or surpass some of those other regions then why not?”
Glacial Hills Resource Conservation and Development, led by Executive Director Gary Satter, will be the lead financial administrator for the e-Community. Anyone with questions regarding the Shawnee County e-Community can call Gary at 785.608.8801 or Cindy Evans at 785.232.0062 ext 110.