U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall tours southwestern Kansas to promote small business and entrepreneurship success, with an eye to a Greensburg model.

U.S. House 1st District Congressman Roger Marshall visited Greensburg on August 13, with a special interest in the Sunchips Business Incubator at 101 S. Main Street.

“If the people of Greensburg can pull themselves up by their boot straps and rebuild after being faced with the tragedy of an EF- 5 tornado, then it gives all other communities hope too, in terms of innovation,” Marshall said.

He saw proof of that on a tour guided by Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson, who explained how Greensburg has transitioned into more sustainable practices while rebuilding, particularly in the creation of the Sunchips entrepreneurship idea.

Many small businesses have established themselves and flourished within the community after using the Sunchips facility to grow and innovate throughout the years.

This, Dixson said, is just one example of the many ways that the Greensburg community has come together to support small business owners and foster development in the town.

“Small businesses will account for about 70 to 80 percent of jobs and [provide] income--for that matter--for the state, and it’s the best chance for keeping rural America alive,” Marshall said. “Especially value-added jobs to agriculture or the wind energy, the oil and gas industries as well.”

Marshall said that every state has its own component of rural America, so the need for supporting small businesses can be seen around the nation, however, making it a priority can be difficult.

“There are only 35 districts that you would still classify as more rural than urban, so 435 districts in the country and only 35 of those would be totally rural like my district would be,” Marshall said. “Whereas, we’re sitting here in the fourth-district, and it’s going to be dominated by Sedgwick county politics, so, I hate to say this, but the war right now is between rural and urban and a fight for those resources. I hate to use the word war but certainly, there’s a finite amount of resources across the country and urban is winning that battle right now.”

Making the issues that people face in rural communities a priority, however, is something Marshall said he wants to work toward.

“They’ve [Greensburg] had to overcome a lot of those challenges all at one time, so if they can do it, other cities can do it too,” Marshall said.

During his most recent trip to Kansas, Marshall has been going around to communities both inside and outside his own congressional district to see the ways that Kansans rebuild and keep pushing on when faced with tragedy.

“We’re on our way to Ashland next, and that would be the same story,” Marshall said.

“Same story down there, with the fires,” Dixson said.

Though it has been over a decade since the Greensburg tornado, Dixson said it would not have been possible for Greensburg to rebuild as successfully as it did without the support of other communities.

“We couldn’t have done this without the assistance of 2.8 million people we call friends and neighbors—they’re called Kansans,” Dixson said. “So, it’s about relationships and how we work together statewide and within our own regions instead of pitting town against town.”

Dixson said it comes down to towns and communities supporting each other and helping each other succeed instead of competing against each other.

“We’re very proud of what we did but it wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have the assistance of all the volunteers and the support from all around the area,” Dixson said. “It wasn’t just about us.”

It has been a challenge though, Marshall said, to get communities to work together rather than against each other—especially when it comes to connecting rural and urban communities and getting them to focus on the similarities rather than the differences.

“The pillars of my life are faith, family, community and education—and when we get to ‘community’ a lot of people ask ‘what do you mean community? What does that mean,’” Marshall said. “It’s the concept that we’re all working together.”