Great Bend, Kansas – Barton County

June 27, 2024

Great Bend, Kansas

A City Looking Towards Continued Growth


Where Progress Meets Quality of Life

Great Bend is a vibrant community of approximately 14,000 residents, characterized by its progressive spirit and small-town charm. With a strong commitment to enhancing quality of life, Great Bend has embarked on an array of ambitious projects, from infrastructure upgrades to innovative recreation facilities. In the words of City Administrator, Brandon Anderson, “We want to make Great Bend the best it can be.”  It is this proactive approach, combined with forward-thinking initiatives, that makes Great Bend an attractive home for families and businesses alike.

Community Enhancements

Logan Burns, the Assistant City Administrator, highlights the city’s ongoing plans for infrastructure improvements and recreational facilities. With projects like the revitalization of Main Street, the installation of a new splash pad, the completion of a skatepark, and the lighting of walking trails at Veterans Memorial Park, Great Bend is investing heavily in its community spaces. Burns notes that these initiatives are the results of a Quality of Life Sales Tax that was approved by the community several years ago.

“What that did was start a capital improvement plan for various degrees of projects, some of the ones that are low hanging fruit, and then mid-sized projects, as well as higher dollar projects such as the splash pad,” he shares.

“We’re also looking at doing a project at Brit Spaugh Park that includes playgrounds, a park shelter, food truck parking, basketball courts, pickleball courts, as well as some mini pitch courts as well. So that’s something that we’ll be bringing back to council for their consideration.” Currently, Great Bend is initiating a Parks Master Plan, which will help to create a vision for the future of the community and guide further improvement efforts. Anderson stresses, “Those quality of life projects are focused on healthy lifestyles, healthy living, trying to get people out and active.”

In addition to continuous upgrades to water and sewer infrastructure, the city is partnering with the Kansas Department of Transportation on a possible alternative transportation grant, which will be used towards making the downtown ADA-compliant, creating a user-friendly area of the community for alternative modes of transportation. “Hopefully that grant will come to fruition,” remarks Anderson. The city is also hoping to take advantage of a Safe Streets and Roads For All Grant through KDOT. “We’ll be looking at that, figuring out exactly what projects can check those boxes. We are trying to capitalize on some grant opportunities and monies that are out there,” he adds.


Economic Development and Business Growth

Great Bend has taken a creative approach to economic development, focusing on enhancing its quality of life amenities, to attract new businesses and residents. Sara Arnberger, the President of Economic Development, explains, “We had to look at what our infrastructure is suited for now, and what we can welcome right at this moment, without significant investment. Before we focus on those large manufacturers that are going to bring their 600 plus employees, we have to focus on the quality of life, and why people would want to move to Great Bend.”

With this in mind, the city has been working to attract a vibrant retail and restaurant scene, welcoming entities like Harbor Freight and Starbucks, along with redesigns of tried and true favorites like Wendy’s. “On a more localized front, we’ve had some great new restaurant startups. We’ve seen a lot of significant investment in some of our existing retail and hospitality markets, which is wonderful. And we’ve got some big ones in the works too,” Arnberger relays.

Key Partnerships and Collaborations

The collaborative spirit between Great Bend’s city administration and its economic development organization exemplifies the community’s dedication to progress. “It’s important to note that Great Bend Economic Development is not part of the city entity. We are a separate organization,” asserts Arnberger.

“This partnership has been crucial to so much of the development that’s happened,” Burns notes that the city is also grateful for the partnership with the local Kiwanis Club, which contributed to the new splash pad. “They put $30,000 towards the pavilion project there, to make sure we were able to have some shade for community events and birthday parties. So that was key to that project.”

Great Bend’s Ignite Rural Business Competition is a catalyst for local entrepreneurship. This Shark Tank-style event awards $95,000 to promising businesses, guiding them through a four-month process that includes business plan development and mentorship.

“As a rural community, we know and we see statistics every day that show that entrepreneurship is going to be the growth path,” emphasizes Arnberger. “So, we’ve done everything we can to support and encourage entrepreneurs that are already here or are coming here.”

Last year, the competition drew over 1,800 viewers online and 200 in-person attendees. Winners included 10-39 Cafe, Hatchet Action, and a major event center slated to open in 2025. “That project is coming back again, we’ll do that annually,” she conveys. “Last year there were 28 businesses that started with us. And then we narrow that down as we continue to help them and support them through their process until we get to the top five most viable businesses that we feel like we can award grant funding to.”

Innovative Childcare and Community Development

A testament to Great Bend’s commitment to its residents is the opening of a new childcare center, addressing an issue that is prevalent in the state of Kansas. Arnberger touts, “As far as the positive impacts that it’s created so far, we’ve had so many letters, emails, etc., from people that are now considering Great Bend, or Barton County, that hadn’t before because we do have high-quality opportunities within childcare.” In June of 2024, the city will break ground on a second childcare facility, adding to the positive impact on the community. In addition, an Innovation Center will be in the works towards the end of the year, with a daycare component.

“We’ve been very aggressive as far as the next phases of childcare and innovation in a rural community,” she portrays.

The upcoming Innovation Center will feature a diverse array of facilities and resources, as Arnberger recounts, “When we looked at constructing this center, the concept was all about questioning what things people say that we can’t have in a rural community, and then overcoming that hurdle.” She describes a state-of-the-art Makerspace Lab, equipped with technology ranging from VR headsets and Smart AG drone training to advanced fabrication machinery. A commercial kitchen will support startup food businesses, while also offering a central kitchen for the childcare locations. Through a partnership with the local hospital, nutritional cooking classes will be available to residents, as well as food licensing classes for those looking to establish a new restaurant.

The center will also feature collaborative workspaces, drawing remote workers and students into the hub of the community. “I probably missed some things, because there’s a lot to it,” admits Arnberger. “The state has backed this with significant grant funds that they’ve put towards the project, and we continue to put more money into it. We’re excited about the outcome and it will be constructed and ready to go in fall of 2025.”

As for housing development and amenities to bring residents to the community, Arnberger reports, “We’ve got 28 new living units that are under construction in our downtown right now. We’ve got some downtown parklets that are being constructed and a downtown entertainment district that is in its fourth season. We have tried to put a focus on what we can offer to citizens who already live here and want to move here. And that is making them feel like Great Bend is a wonderful place to live.”

Looking Ahead

For 2024, Great Bend’s goals include furthering economic development, completing recreational projects, and continuing to improve infrastructure. For Arnberger this means a focus on the childcare facilities and the opportunities they create for the city. As far as what comes next she hints, “We’ve got some big recruitment missions underway right now that are under the radar, but we’re very hopeful to be able to land some large hospitality and retail things to our community that would show up in 2025.”

Burns says for him the emphasis is on continuing to move forward with quality-of-life projects, noting, “Just being able to continually show what we’re doing with those sales tax dollars is incredible.”

As for Anderson, he is anticipating new opportunities for the city. He shares, “Nationally, there’s been more dollars allocated for infrastructure the last couple of years than have ever been available for cities. Our hope is we can continue to work with them to be able to access some of those funds and with the funds that we’ve got internally, enhance some of the projects that we’re able to do.”

With much to be excited about, Great Bend is a community on the rise, as it continues to support its residents and businesses while offering the best of rural charm and a modern lifestyle.


Great Bend, Kansas

What: A thriving city committed to providing a high quality of life for residents.

Where: Barton County, Kansas



Great Bend Chamber of Commerce –

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