NWKEICI Helps Northwest Kansas Entrepreneurs Dreams Become Reality

Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center
Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center

When it comes to developing an idea, professional insight and experience makes the difference in launching a new product.

That's why Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center, Inc. doesn't just provide funding for qualifying entrepreneurs through its Business Concept Development Program. NWKEICI also helps connect prospective business owners with those with expertise in navigating the intricacies of getting a product on the market.

"Northwest Kansans are known for their innovation and independent spirit," said NWKEICI Program Director Lucas Goddard. "While there is an abundance of these qualities in the entrepreneurs in our region, there isn't always traditional financial support available to build these ventures. NWKEICI launched its program to ensure that these businesses aren't just dreams, but that they become reality."

NWKEICI reached out to the Technology Development Institute at Kansas State University to help one such inventor move his product forward. Barry Reinert had secured a patent for his Bac-Pac technology for use with hydraulic bale beds. The attachment allows ranchers to quickly attach and release the device that can be used to transport livestock and equipment as well as dump feed or gravel with the ability to be loaded at ground level.

It was a solid idea and Reinert had produced a prototype. But Bret Lanz, Commercialization Director at the Technology Development Institute, said this is where new products can stall because manufacturers need to know the bottom line for production.

"We work with inventors at all stages of the process and we can help them with understanding patents, timelines and market research," he said. "Barry did a great job developing his product, he just needed to be able to have everything in hand when he approached manufacturers."

The Technology Development Institute has rural and innovation funds from the Department of Commerce that they were able to match with the support Reinert had from NWKEICI to take the design, put it into a virtual model and build a second and final prototype.

"In the end, he had a complete set of drawings for every part, a bill of materials - which is basically an ingredient list of everything that goes into it, and the redesigned version," Lanz noted. "We also worked with him to create a list of potential licensees or manufacturers for him. He's now taking this information when he talks to prospective manufacturers."

Manufacturers have limited engineering resources, so compiling details for a product is crucial.

"Having that information to offer a manufacturer the opportunity to put it into production with the minimal time and cost involved - that's what we're trying to help the entrepreneur do," Lanz said. "We try to see how far we can help them get that ball down the court and give them all they need to put it into production."

Goddard notes the reality of business isn't just important for an entrepreneur - but for the region itself.

"When an entrepreneur succeeds, we all share in that success," he said. "Getting a new business established or a product to market means more dollars in their pockets and more dollars in our communities."

The Business Concept Development Program makes funds available to entrepreneurs to determine if a particular business idea, product or service is commercially viable - especially when conventional funding sources are not an option. For more information, contact NWKEICI.

The Northwest Kansas Economic Innovation Center, Inc. provides economic and entrepreneurial assistance to businesses in rural Northwest Kansas. The private operating foundation serves 26 counties in the region with a variety of programs. By working with existing businesses or entrepreneurs throughout the coverage area with targeted programs, NWKEICI strives to reverse the outflow of people and businesses from Northwest Kansas. Through its current and future initiatives that extend resources to these businesses and entrepreneurs, NWKEICI hopes to increase population and to foster economic innovation in Northwest Kansas.

(Information courtesy NWKEICI.)