Archive for the ‘AREA News’ Category

McCook, Benkelman, and Cambridge chosen for Innovative Housing Program

AREA News, News, Photo Feature - 06.26.19


Unique, exciting and replicable: three adjectives that aptly describe the projects that have been awarded funding under the DED-administered Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund (NAHTF) Innovative Housing Demonstration Program.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) administers the NAHTF program annually to support communities in their efforts to develop quality, affordable homes. This, in turn, promotes economic growth by empowering communities to attract and retain working residents.

On one hand, it was business as usual in 2018 as DED announced the award of 28 NAHTF applications for the annual program cycle — though “business as usual” hardly applies to a program that has helped to develop thousands of housing units across Nebraska since its inception in 1996. On the other, this year saw DED administer approximately $1.35 million from the NAHTF in an entirely new way.

Under the Innovative Housing Demonstrative Program, DED challenged community stakeholders to find creative and effective ways to address their local housing needs.

“With NAHTF funding still available, we were able to do something out of the ordinary and issue a request for proposals,” said DED Director Dave Rippe. “What we were searching for were innovative, ‘outside-the-box’ methods for addressing community housing issues; projects that would not only accomplish local objectives, but that would do so in a way that has perhaps not been done before in Nebraska, and that could potentially serve as a model for other communities.”

As anticipated, the economic development community delivered in spades.

“We received 33 proposals under the new program, and the quality of proposals made selecting a short list of finalists a difficult task,” Rippe said. “We are consistently impressed by the work of our peers in the housing and economic development communities. They provide outstanding service to our state, and are a driving force behind Nebraska’s growth.”

Ultimately, DED selected two economic development organizations and a local municipality to receive funding under the Innovative Housing Demonstration program. All projects will benefit persons who are at or below 120% of their area median income, as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) will receive $450,000 to support a project that involves transforming unused, dilapidated buildings on the now-vacant Dana College campus into a variety of affordable housing options. The initial award will support the renovation of a former dormitory into a dozen apartments.

“This project is a tremendous and creative example of adaptive reuse,” Rippe said. “It, like the remaining two projects, will also harness revolving loan funds. This means the impact of our initial investments will create a ripple effect to support new investments and projects.”

In southwest Nebraska, McCook Economic Development Corporation was awarded $405,600, which it will use to finance a unique revolving loan fund created in partnership between the communities of McCook, Benkelman and Cambridge. While DED’s initial investment will fund the construction of two single-family units, the partnership framework creates a scenario where each community pitches in and everyone benefits.

“This is a project where three independent communities have come to the table with a shared vision and formed a strong, concerted plan of action,” Rippe said. “It’s a terrific example of what can be accomplished through the power of partnerships.”

Last but not least, the City of Superior will receive $500,000 to support its BOOM (“Building Owner Occupied Momentum”) initiative. This will see the City experiment with a variety of traditional and non-traditional housing options — including prefabricated container homes and cottages — to attract and accommodate families and young professionals. The initial award will support the construction of six new infill units. As homes are sold, proceeds will be used as revolving loans for additional housing activities.

“Sometimes non-traditional progress calls for non-traditional approaches,” Rippe said. “In Superior, housing leaders are finding ways to extract the biggest bang out of every investment in the community housing stock. As with each of the Innovative Housing Demonstration projects, we’re excited to see this come to fruition.”

More information related to the Innovative Housing Demonstration program is slated for release as projects are completed. In the meantime, keep following DED for the latest news and information on the NAHTF and other economic development programs.

Sporting Goods Store is Aiming High and On Target

AREA News, News, Photo Feature - 05.29.19

Written by the Nebraska Business Development Center.

Planning for and opening a first business brings many challenges, and Matt and Larry Eden of McCook found an advocate and guide in the Nebraska Business Development Center.
Matt was a heavy equipment salesman and Larry, his father, was semi-retired from farming and transportation when they decided to act upon a thought they’d been kicking around for more than two years. “The idea of a sporting goods store appealed to us because we have been hunting and fishing our entire lives,” says Larry. “In McCook, we had no other option than Walmart.”
The Edens say they felt they could offer a level of personalized customer service that isn’t found in a large chain store. Additionally, Walmart self-prohibits sales of firearms to anyone under 21 years of age. However, Nebraska law allows for sales of rifles and long guns to anyone 18 and older to be used in hunting and sporting events.
When the Edens took the concept for their new business, Armadillo Arms & Sporting Goods LLC, to their banker to discuss a loan, they were directed to Charlie McPherson, director of the McCook NBDC office.
“They already had purchased the land, and put a down payment on a building, but needed additional funding for the remainder of construction along with inventory, equipment and supplies,” McPherson says. “A lender referred them to me to assist with the development of a business plan and financial projections for the loan.”
Matt Eden says they had the framework of a five-year business plan. “We got with Charlie about three months before the building was done and he helped us refine our plan,” he says. McPherson conducted research into the sporting goods industry to compare projected revenue, profit and sales margins against figures the Edens had compiled. “We were about spot on,” Larry says. “It was encouraging to know that we were on the right track.”
Armed with McPherson’s figures and advice, the Edens were able to obtain the necessary funding. They opened Armadillo Arms in June 2017 once they had their live bait operation in place, adding inventory over the next few months. They held the grand opening of their just under 5,000-sq-foot sales building at 210 Airport Road in October.
They draw customers from a roughly 200-mile radius, Matt says. “We’ve had people come from all the way down into Kansas,” he says.
Featured products include a large selection of firearms and archery supplies, with Armadillo Arms serving as dealer for Glock handguns, as well as Xpedition Archery and Mudhole Custom Fishing Rods. The store also houses a 20-yard shooting range for bows, crossbows and BB guns. Other services include custom rod building and bait sales.
“We try to treat everybody like we would want them to treat us,” Larry Eden says.
That is the kind of care they found with the NBDC and McPherson, he says.

May 2019 Director’s Update

AREA News, News, Photo Feature - 05.29.19


Every year the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce travels the state talking about their priorities for the state legislature. Every year that I’ve attended, the message has been the same on the need to lower our state taxes. When they came to McCook last fall, I was ready to hear the same message. I was surprised. New State Chamber president Bryan Sloan said the lack of a qualified workforce is now the most pressing economic issue in the state.

Last month, the State Labor Department said there were more than 36,000 open jobs in Nebraska, across nearly all fields. Currently, the unemployment rate is at 2.8 percent and Red Willow County’s unemployment rate is 2.6%. Most people who can keep a job are working. The challenge will only become larger as the number of working-age Nebraskans actually peaked in 2018 and is set to decline for the next decade.

As I meet with employers in the area, I hear the same thing. If you go to Parker’s web page you see the following job openings in McCook: Product Engineer, Material Manager, Value Stream Manager, Production Openings, Electronic Maintenance.

At Community Hospital’s website, they currently have seven open job postings. If you are an auto or diesel technician, almost any business who employees technicians is hiring. In certain subject areas, it is difficult for our local schools to generate any type of applicant pool.

As we look at our area’s workforce demand, we are working at being proactive to meet our current and future demand. At our last MEDC board meeting, we invited Superintendent Grant Norgaard, Board President Tom Bredvick, and Kelly Rippen, McCook Community Vice President to talk about local workforce needs and what partnership MEDC can provide with education and business to meet the need.

The school district already has a great partnership with Community Hospital on exploring health careers. If you visited with our graduating seniors, you probably noticed a lot of them are going into health careers. Part of that is the careers program these two organizations have developed. As we talked, Superintendent Norgaard said he welcomes businesses to contact the school and see how they can work together to help students be exposed to the opportunities available locally. This past year, the school district held its first set of Bison Days where students got the chance to explore hobbies and local career opportunities.

The college is working on developing a program to help train more local electronic maintenance technicians. The program should be able to use the resources available at the North Platte campus to offer a hybrid education to provide technical training to people living locally in McCook. The college has also hired a new area Career Connection Coach that should assist in helping connect employers with students. MEDC is currently working with the college to develop an internship program that will help line students up with local businesses and provide the resources local employers need to have a successful internship.

This is a good start, but we need to do more. Hopefully, our health career pathways program at the high school level can be extended to the skilled trades and manufacturing sectors locally. The college has a great opportunity with the old Elks building and with area high school partnerships to offer career and technical education locally.

We will move forward at the MEDC to meet local workforce needs, but I could use your help. If you are an employer and have a local job opening, I want to know. Let me know the following:

  1. Job Title
  2. Amount of Education Required
  3. Pay level of the position

Many times the information used to help make decisions come from a regional or state level. We need more data on the specific positions available and education needed to help connect our local educational institutions and students to the opportunities available here. Contact me at 308-345-1200 or if you want to visit more about your local workforce needs.

April 2019 Director’s Update

AREA News, News - 04.29.19

Valmont has been a great addition to McCook.

Last year Valmont paid $146,283.52 in property taxes. These taxes went to fund the school, city, county, ESU, historical society, Mid-Plains Community College, and the Natural Resources District. Sixteen years ago, the land where Valmont was located paid $784.12 in property tax. The addition of Valmont has brought over 150 jobs, over $8,000,000 in increased property value, and around $150,000 more in local property taxes.

Thanks to the unicameral debate around a proposed constitutional amendment to adjust Tax Increment Financing (TIF), I thought it would be good to give an example of how TIF has affected us in McCook. Part of the incentive package that attracted Valmont was TIF. TIF is one of the more confusing incentive packages available in the state and that confusing brings about misunderstanding.

TIF allows developers to issue a bond for development of a site. Expenses that are TIF eligible include land acquisition, site development, professional fees, installation and construction of public infrastructure, and façade improvements.

Valmont was able to receive a TIF bond to help construct their manufacturing facility. Due to their construction, the value of the land went from $36,510 to $8,200,388 today. The increase in property taxes went to pay off the bond that Valmont received for development for 15 years. The property taxes paid on the original valuation of $36,510 continued to go to the taxing entities, while just the additional property tax went to pay off the bond. The property did not come off the tax roll during the 15 year repayment period.

Because of TIF, we were able to attract a major employer and eventually increase property taxes collected. If TIF wasn’t an option, Valmont would have located elsewhere and we would not have benefitted from their presence and value to McCook.

I also wanted to give an update on some other activities happening at MEDC. Currently, we are administering a survey to get the public’s input on Early Childhood Education. If you haven’t taken the survey yet, please go to our homepage at and you can find a link. We plan on hosting some public information sessions on May 22 and 23 to distribute the survey data and get feedback on your thoughts on how we can improve access and the quality of early childhood education.

We had Brooke Bouck from Nebraska Children visit with our early childhood education providers last Thursday evening. As a part of the gathering, there was conversation about some of the challenges our providers experience and initial conversations on what can be done to improve access to childcare locally.

The McCook Growth Fund Citizen’s Advisory Group met in April to review LB 840 growth fund expenses in the first quarter. There were two disbursements from the Revolving Loan Program to help in the transition with two local businesses from local owners to new local owners. Every month, I add to my list of successful small business owners who are looking to transition out of their business. If you are interested in purchasing an existing business and thought financing would be impossible, let me know and we can explore how our revolving loan can assist in gap financing.

We were fortunate to host the Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Dave Rippe last week. At the Rotary presentation he shared communities that concentrate on the quality of life and create places where people want to live are attracting workforce and businesses. He also shared that in our 63 most rural counties the creation of 10 jobs is similar to the creation of 1,000 jobs in Omaha. Economic development has expanded from chasing smokestacks to creating inviting communities.

Earlier in April, I had a chance to travel to Lincoln with Kandra Kinne from Cambridge and Megan Spargo from Benkelman. We submitted a $425,000 grant proposal to the Department of Economic Development to create a regional revolving housing fund. We were one of 8 proposals out of the 33 submitted that had a chance to present in front of the Department of Economic Development panel. We continue to look for creative ways to improve our housing stock and hope to hear if we received the grant in the next couple weeks.

We continue to look to conduct business recruitment, workforce development and recruitment, and housing improvements. If you have questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to get a hold of me.