Community Development

National Program Targets Northeast NE Economic Development

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and Nebraska USDA Rural Development have obtained funding for a regional economic development plan for Northeast Nebraska. The region includes Burt, Cuming, Dodge, Colfax, Butler, Nance Boone, Antelope, Knox, Cedar, Dixon, Thurston, Platte, Wayne, Stanton, Butler and Pierce counties.

The plan will be an outcome of the Stronger Economies Together program that has been successful in 50 regions in 28 states since 2009. Stronger Economies Together is a collaborative program between the United States Department of Agriculture, the Purdue Center for Regional Development and the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University.

Nebraska Extension Educator, Carroll Welte, and USDA Rural Development Program Support Director, Roger Meeks are recruiting civic and business leaders in Northeast Nebraska to participate in the SET program. They are looking for individuals who can identify opportunities and correlate them with business development and job creation.

According to Ms. Welte, the state advisory team for the SET program is waiting for The Purdue Center to furnish them with a sophisticated data set based on Northeast Nebraska's industry clusters. Tim Lemmons, an Extension Educator and economist at the Northeast Research and Extension Center in Norfolk added "having access to otherwise restricted business data will help to focus the strengths of the region towards a measurable impact. Knowing where the holes are and what industry clusters fit the need, will help economic developers target and attract successful businesses to their communities."

Lemmons, along with Dr. Ken Lemke, an economist with NPPD and Dr. Randy Cantrell, a rural sociologist with the Rural Futures Institute, will present the data to the SET participants in layman's terms. In turn, the economic developers, civic and business leaders will look for opportunities for business and job creation. Sheryl Hiatt, Field Service Manager for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development said "the hard work comes in setting three to five goals and writing an economic development plan that 17 counties can work together on over the next five years or so."

The Stronger Economies Together program will start February 18th in Norfolk at the Chamber of Commerce office. A kick-off event for business and community leaders will be held in the evening on March 18th in Wayne (location TBA). Afterwards SET will be conducted monthly from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month to develop a high quality economic development plan. The program will be augmented with tours and presentations correlating with the planning process.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Stronger Economies Together participation will help Northeast Nebraska obtain greater funding for regional economic development projects.

For more information or to participate in the SET meetings, contact Carroll Welte at Nebraska Extension in Burt County, (402) 374-2929 or cwelte1@unl.edu or Roger Meeks at (402) 437-5742 or Roger.Meeks@ne.usda.gov.