Attendees of The Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce’s recent noon networking luncheon heard how Thrive Allen County works to improve quality of life for Allen County residents.

Thrive Allen County CEO David Toland spoke during the Oct. 3 luncheon.

Thrive Allen County is a nonprofit coalition that works to improve quality of life and economic conditions in Allen County.

It is the first and largest coalition in Kansas, according to Toland.

Cowley County has a similar group, called RISE Cowley, which sponsored the event which was held at Cowley College

Toland addressed several key factors in how Thrive Allen County came to be so prosperous in small-town America.

“We all reside in small towns and we probably do so for a reason. We want to be here,” Toland said. “Part of this is community.”

Some of the issues that small towns face are crippling poverty, addictions, bad decision making processes regarding health and small-town rivalries.

Beyond this, there are concerns about rapidly decreasing populations in rural areas.

Because of this, Toland focused on how Thrive Allen County approaches issues like physician recruitment.

“The first dentist we (successfully) recruited was gone in six months,” Toland said.

After that doctor left, the coalition changed how they were approaching recruitment.

Where they historically set up meetings and meals with the mayor or city council, they decided to find individuals that are of a similar age and lifestyle.

For example, if the individuals who were being recruited were around the age of 30, married and without kids.

The coalition invited individuals who were the same age and enjoyed the same activities.

Another aspect of recruitment involved making sure that the community had much to offer for the residents.

One of the largest draws for recruiting a new dentist was a dog park.

“The first three asked if we had a dog park, by the fourth, I told them we were working on it,” Toland said.

The wife of the dentist that ended up moving to the community had a part in creating a dog park in Allen County.

“She named and created a logo for the dog park,” Toland said.

He emphasizes the importance of approaching change through positive communication.

The language used to excite change can ultimately affect how others react to it, according to Toland.