Bill Kurtis, acclaimed journalist, is a native Kansasan who has returned to invest for the betterment of the state. I’ve written numerous times about his efforts in Sedan, KS in SE Kansas to revitalize the town. When he first bought a ranch there that reminded him of the Serengeti of Africa, he was inspired by a small group of local citizens’ efforts for their town. He helped them expand their vision of developing more tourist based business by reaching out in a regional approach.
Kurtis was back in Kansas this month giving the keynote talk at the annual meeting of Southeast Kansas, Inc., a regional ED group. I thought that some of his words on the importance of a regional approach were right on the mark.
He started by talking about the Little House on the Prairie, a redevelopment project of he and his sister. “People don’t come to see the Little House on the Prairie alone. It is part of a larger tour that includes other regional attractions like the Dalton Gang shootout, a working cattle ranch or a famous Civil War battlefield.”
He went on, “We’ve got to do what Africa did. We’ve got to connect the dots. The real attraction of the game preserves of Africa, isn’t the sites, it’s the experiences. We should do that in Kansas.”
Kurtis is right on the mark. We in rural America have to sell our experiences, but do so on a regional basis. We can’t each be promoting our own limited attractions, which might be able to bring in someone for an hour or two. We’ve, instead, got to promote multiple towns and numerous experiences that will allow people to come and spend days or weeks. It has been done in other areas. Why not in Kansas? Why not in your region?