Huffman works for growth

As the first Marion County Economic Development director, Theresa Huffman?s list of accomplishments is impressive.

But at the core of her success is not a drive for accolade, but a desire for the Marion County economy to thrive.

?I really enjoy my job,? Huffman said. ?The best part of the job is working with all the communities in the county to offer business support and marketing opportunities for retail businesses and community events.?

Huffman works as the lone ranger in her department to promote Marion County at all opportunities?including tourism, local attractions, local business and recreation.

Moving from Independence to Marion to be near her son and grandchildren, Huffman began her county job Nov. 1, 2006. Since assuming her role, Huffman has assisted seven new business start-ups and three business expansions.

?I spend a lot of time assisting companies with marketing their business,? she said.

But she?s also not afraid to get her hands dirty.

?If a new business needs help painting or refinishing a floor, I?m available,? Huffman said. ?If an entrepreneur is willing to put in the time, energy and funding for a new business and become a part of the Marion County community, I?m there to help any way I can.?

And that includes funding opportunities.

Huffman has helped Marion County receive several major grants during her tenure, including a $100,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation for Leadership Marion County.

Those funds were placed in an endowment that matched half of new funds deposited, so the endowment ended up totaling $150,000.

Huffman also helps new businesses locate financing through county micro-loans and other funding.

Working with an annual budget of $72,000, Huffman was instrumental in bringing the Symphony in the Flint Hills to the pasture owned by the Mills family. The event also included a pre-symphony festival in Florence.

?That (event) was great fun,? Huffman said.

But Huffman?s job duties don?t end there. She?s working to develop a county newsletter.

?The newsletter is in the infancy stage because I am the only person in my office,? Huffman said. ?But I get so much information that I think people around the county would be interested in knowing.?

The newsletter will include local as well as regional, state and federal information.

In addition to her role with MCED, Huffman is vice president of the board of Flint Hills RC&D. She also serves on the board of South Central Kansas Economic Development District and the board of South Central Community Foundation Board.

She is a member of Kansas Economic Development Alliance and the International Economic Development Council.

And her busyness, she said, is one of the hardest parts of the job.

?The biggest challenge to my job is there is not enough hours in the day and there is only one of me to do the job,? she said. ?But (the job) is lot?s of fun, and there are lots of great people in the county.?

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