The Finney County Economic Development Corporation is in the process of rolling out some new initiatives to showcase Garden City and its neighboring communities.

One such initiative, the Great Plains MakerSpace, will soon offer Garden City’s residents the opportunity to improve and hone new talents at a community center with a focus on hands-on activities geared toward wood- and metalworking options, laser cutting, 3D printing, electronic circuitry and programming, sewing and embroidery, commercial kitchen work, and hydroponic gardening.

In addition, the FCEDC is working on a new website, GreaterGardenCity.com, that will function much like the Garden City Journal Facebook page but with customizable search options, calendar event planning and an ethos that emphasizes the good things coming out of Garden City and other cities and towns in the region.

Chris Turpin, an English instructor at the Garden City Community College, is assisting the FCEDC with the technical implementation of the new MakerSpace facility he hopes will give people an opportunity to work and collaborate with other local creators specializing in a range of fields.

“This is something in the works,” Turpin said. “There are MakerSpaces all over the country, and we’re kind of borrowing bits and pieces from different models.”

Turpin said he is working with FCEDC staff members to search for an appropriate space in the community that would accommodate the multi-professional vision of this comprehensive MakerSpace model.

FCEDC President Lona DuVall said the MakerSpace community center model has already been adopted in many large cities, noting that the model in Dallas has inspired the FCEDC in their plans to develop the project.

“They have a lot of disciplines located within one space,” DuVall said. “Some of the MakerSpaces that we’ve seen are really dedicated to arts, for instance, or they’re really dedicated to the computer side of it, but the Dallas one is really the more comprehensive model, so I think that’s why we’ve really been drawn to it.”

DuVall said she hopes the MakerSpace center will help young locals build their technical knowledge, and carry those skills forward into adulthood to lend them to a “more talented, effective workforce.”

If the project attracts community support, DuVall said the establishment of the Great Plains MakerSpace could be well underway within a year.

DuVall said more and more incoming Garden City residents are living in apartments or occupying small rental properties and don’t have access to the kind of space needed for many of the technical crafts that would be better practiced in a larger facility, “so this creates an outlet for them to go and not only create things but also be engaged with other community members and get more involved with the community.”

She added that the skills harnessed at the facility might lead to new businesses and products manufactured in Garden City.

Under the proposed model, the new MakerSpace would offer free public time for anyone to come into the MakerSpace and use the tools, but those who purchase a membership will be afforded extended hours and “enterprise members” would be afforded 24-hour access.

“There will be certain times of the day, certain days of the week that it will be open and free to the public, provided that members have training on the equipment that they want to use,” Turpin said, noting that paid memberships will encompass different levels allowing for incremental increases in accessibility.

While the funding and location of the new center still pose big questions, organizers at the FCEDC say they plan to adopt a nonprofit business model and utilize a facility — preferably downtown — that would span a “minimum” of 8,000 square feet.

“We’d like the building to have space for future expansion as we acquire more equipment and as interest in the community and as word spreads,” Turpin said.

The MakerSpace is slated to provide access to expensive specialty tools, large and small project spaces, technical learning opportunities and a hands-on community environment.

FCEDC Strategic Analyst Shannon Dick noted that young people are expected to use iPads, iPhones and a range of other computerized accessories while they simultaneously lose skills relevant to formerly common crafts such as woodworking, sewing, metalworking, cooking and repair.

“This is really an avenue to get those kinds of hands-on things back into our everyday lifestyle,” Dick said.

Dick is the creator of the Garden City Journal Facebook page, which is dedicated entirely to showcasing Garden City and the surrounding area. To expand that effort, Dick is using the resources now available to him at the FCEDC to create a new website, GreaterGardenCity.com, that will bring together people from as far north as Scott City, as far east as Holly, Colo., as far west as Cimarron, and as far south as Sublette and Elkhart.

The website is slated for launch in approximately two weeks and will afford users customizable event search options, categorized by location and topic. The goal is to provide southwest Kansas residents with a comprehensive way to both search and showcase events relevant to their interests as the website’s capabilities expand.

While more than 90 percent of the website’s content is planned to center around Garden City, the site is intended to be the “lifestyle hub” of the Garden City area, with soft news reporting and listicles that might cover the “10 things to do on spring break,” among other topics.

Dick said much of the content will be generated at the grassroots level by individual organizations wanting to spread the word about initiatives or events they’re proud of.

“We want all of the different organizations to talk about what’s going on, like the new coffee shop as they get new pictures of how they’re remodeling and getting all that ready,” Dick said. “Send that stuff over and we’ll get that up and let people know what’s going on.”

Dick said his rationale for both the Garden City Journal page and GreaterGardenCity.com stemmed from a tendency among outside media outlets to focus on negative stories about Garden City.

The website will feature 12 to 20 stories and active updates to community calendars, Dick said, in addition to weekly videos about recent and upcoming events in Garden City.

An informational fact sheet detailing expectations for the website going forward noted that no event will be too small to cover.

FCEDC Director of Communications Scott Aust said the website will not cover events relating to local government, crime or anything that might be considered “hard news.”

“It’s really to highlight positive news and events throughout the area, Garden City, southwest Kansas, and it’s a partnership between Garden City Journal and Finney County Economic Development,” Aust said.

Basically, this is a website that will enable organizers in the community to spread the word about what they’re doing and prevent positive community events from falling through the cracks of conventional media coverage.

“This is an opportunity for us to share the good things that are happening throughout this community that often unfortunately go unnoticed because there are just so many good things and not enough opportunities to tell stories,” DuVall said.

Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com