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Forums focus on economy, health





The Affordable Health Care Act, economic outlook issues and recruitment opportunities will be the focus of three upcoming forums offered in Hays this month.

Starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Robbins Center, Fort Hays State University campus, an Affordable Health Care panel will feature Sandy Praeger, Kansas Insurance Department commissioner and representatives of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas and Preferred Health Systems.

Looking ahead to the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, which is set for January, forum discussion will focus on its potential consequences for local businesses and issues of meeting eligibility requirements.

"There are still a lot of questions around how it's going to impact folks," said Aaron White, Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development executive director. "But they (panelists) will try and answer based on what they know now, and try to make suggestions to businesses to prepare for it."

Pre-registration for the forum, sponsored through a partnership between the ECC and Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, is available by calling the ECC at (785) 628-3102 or by emailing ernee@haysamerica.net.

Coming up Oct. 18, an economic outlook conference sponsored by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research, Wichita State University, in cooperation with ECC, will bring together economic and business professionals from both Hays and Wichita.

The Hays conference is one of four regional economic outlook conferences which will be held throughout the state in October. Other cities include Pittsburg, Emporia and Dodge City.

Local speakers for the conference, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Robbins Center, will include John Greathouse, chairman of FHSU's department of agriculture and Randy Walker, Bank of Hays president.

Greathouse said he will approach the topic of agriculture from a practical awareness perspective, acknowledging that many questions surround the future of agriculture in western Kansas.

"Obviously, people are going to have to eat, but how are we going to respond to the political conditions and the environmental conditions that face people who are trying to produce this food," he said. "It's going to be a very interesting point of speculation."

Overall, the conference likely will be of interest to a broad spectrum of participants.

"It should be a great opportunity for folks in this region, whether businesses, community leaders, economic developers, to get a feel for what some of the experts think we might be looking at in 2013 in terms of where the state and national economy's going," White said. "Should be very informative and interesting."

Registration for the conference is available at: bit.ly/RlPtZY. Cost of the conference, which includes lunch, is $75.

A small forum featuring NationJob Community Job Network Program will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Hays Welcome Center, 2700 Vine. The topic for discussion will be a cooperative recruitment initiative that will allow Ellis County employers to promote their jobs on an internet community-based recruitment source.

White said NationJob provides discounted rates to businesses and has a national and regional recruiting reach.

"With the tight market supply of labor, we thought this is a good opportunity to do something that's a little more regional or national in scope than what folks have normally done," White said. Although registration for the forum is not required, he said he would encourage those interested to call the ECC to reserve a spot. There is no registration fee for the forum.