Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Executive Director November Update

AREA News, Events, News, Photo Feature - 11.30.18

Image result for Red Willow Nebraska Cattle

According to the 2012 USDA census, Red Willow County had 227 livestock farms with a total of 64,000 cattle. When you add in our surrounding counties, there is an additional 333,600 cattle. That’s a lot of beef.

The backbone of our economy in Red Willow County and Nebraska is agriculture. A report by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Agriculture Economics, Nebraska Livestock Expansion White Paper, points out some of our strengths and opportunities. Nebraska ranks 1st in irrigated acres, 1st in commercial red meat production, 2nd in corn-based ethanol, 3rd in corn for grain production, 4th in soybean production, 5th in all hay production, 6th in all hogs and pigs, and 7th in commercial hog slaughter.

Even with these top 10 ranks, there are still opportunities. One of the concerns is Nebraska exports high proportions of its crop output as commodities, which includes over a third of its corn crop, half of the in-state production of distiller’s grain, and more than 80 percent of its soybean meal output.

Based on this, we are excited we were recently awarded a $5,000 grant from the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN) to market Red Willow County to value added agriculture companies. This grant will allow us to build a digital presence and have focused efforts on recruiting value added agriculture companies from the front range of Colorado. We’re excited to be able to partner with AFAN to make this happen.

Anything we can do to improve the economic situation of our local ag producers trickles down to benefit the rest of our local economy. Low commodity prices for an extended time have made agriculture tough, so it is important for us to find opportunities to help producers get the most they can from the sale of commodities.

We also held a MEDC board meeting last week and conducted strategic planning. Through a series of activities, we identified retail recruitment, work force recruitment and development, and housing as our three top priorities.

The area of top importance identified in the near term is retail growth. It is important we retain our place as the retail hub of Southwest Nebraska. Retail has changed, with many brick and mortar retailers being hurt by on-line sales. We plan on a multifaceted approach by helping new local retailers get started and by continuing to recruit national retailers that fill a local gap. In January, we will have a representative from Buxton, a company that is the leader in growth strategies in retail, visit with our board and others who are interested.

A second area of importance identified was workforce development and people attraction. Everyone from the state Chamber of Commerce to the Nebraska Community Foundation has been talking about the importance of people recruitment. We will look at programs to grow our own to fill area needs, along with working to find new ways to put McCook on the map for others to relocate here for job opportunities and the quality of life.

Along with this, we will find ways to support our workforce. Previously, we had applied to be a part of the program Communities for Kids and last week were informed that we have been selected to participate in this program. Experts from Nebraska Children and Families will come to McCook and work with a local core team of 17 people to help us analyze and improve the quantity and quality of early childhood education in McCook.

The other area of main importance continues to be housing. We will continue to work with state programs and explore opportunities to improve our current housing stock and build new homes in McCook. This is a challenge facing almost all of rural Nebraska and we will continue to find local solutions.

All of these components from agriculture, retail, workforce, and housing all rely on local solutions. There isn’t a magic bullet to any of these issues. Fortunately, we left our last meeting with a buzz of excitement as we know we have the individuals and resources locally to grow McCook.

Executive Director October Update

AREA News, Events, News, Photo Feature - 10.26.18

One of my favorite shows growing up was the A-Team. The show was about four Vietnam veterans, framed for a crime they didn’t commit, helping the innocent while on the run from the military. Every week, it looked like they were in over their heads and this would be the time they would be caught and sent to military prison. The group of four, who each brought their own individual strengths, would always accomplish the near impossible to help a community. At the end of every episode, their leader, John “Hannibal” Smith would give his classic quote, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

As we continue looking at the challenges facing the McCook area and develop our strategic plan, there are some clear areas where we are planning to make a difference. One of the key areas is in the recruitment of retail. I traveled to Phillipsburg, KS and Holdrege to look at the success both of those communities have had in retail. Phillipsburg followed a grow your own approach, while Holdrege has had success recruiting national brands. We look to take aspects of both to provide a range of shopping options and fill some of our empty storefronts.

A second area of focus is to improve housing availability. We are still discussing a variety of options, but the short term goal will be to figure out incentives to encourage people to build new housing and to remodel our current housing stock. Over the long term, we will look to improve the capacity of the community to be able to build more and explore areas of growth for the community.

A third area of focus has been with business retention, expansion, and transitions. We look to increase our outreach to area businesses to identify the challenges they are facing. Based on this we plan to collaborate with area businesses to help them grow and eventually transition.

Fourth, we also want to look at workforce development. In this category, we hope to help connect area students with the jobs available in this area. We also will look at ways to attract individuals to this area. Part of this is found in our other areas of focus that includes improving our housing and retail options.

The MEDC board plans to spend extra time in November to develop a strategic plan and what would be the best way to help us meet our mission of facilitating the formation, retention, attraction, and expansion of business in McCook and the surrounding area. Along with these areas of focus, we’ll also look at what are some of the big wins we want to have in the next five to ten years and how can we continue to make the Keystone Business Center a successful operation moving forward.

While we work on our strategic plan, there are also many projects moving forward. I have had the opportunity to serve on the BluePrint Nebraska team that is helping to create a 10 year plan for growth for the entire state of Nebraska. It is good to be able to provide a Southwest Nebraska perspective to this team. We also hosted a team of four new staff members from Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED). One new member of Nebraska DED is working on a grant to help expose middle school students to career and technical jobs. A few local businesses made a good contact there and have the opportunity to partner in the future.

I have also been working with a leadership group of seniors and the high school to help expose both groups to the opportunities available in McCook. We are also partnering with the college on the Hormel Entrepreneurship Competition. We are looking for new business ideas and businesses in their first five years that are looking to expand to participate.

I’m planning on looking at some of the successes we will have in the future and tell our board, “I love it when a plan comes together.” We have a variety of strengths in our community to help make this happen. As always, if you have questions or thoughts, please call me at 308-345-1200 or e-mail andy@mccookne.org.

Executive Director September Update

AREA News, Events, News - 10.01.18

It is always inspiring to head back to work after Heritage Days. The highlight of the week for me was the Norris Prayer Breakfast. Wallis Marsh returned from Texas to talk about how the time he spent in McCook helped shape him to become the success he is today. When talking about his class, he said they all worked together to make each other better and referred to it as ‘cooperative competition’. Working together to make each other better is something I still see in this area and is important this month at the MEDC in a couple issues.

First, we are working to improve early childhood education in the McCook area. We have some great people working at child care facilities and in-home daycares, but if you have an infant, you know how difficult it is to find a spot. High quality child care is important to help couples continue to work and provide the foundation their children need to be successful.

This week, we will submit an application to the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation to participate in their Communities for Kids program. The Communities for Kids initiative was created in response to community request for assistance with shortages of high-quality early care and education programs – shortages that both impact children’s optimal development and pose a challenge for communities hoping to attract and retain the viable workforces needed to thrive. We have assembled a local core team that contains child care providers, major employers, and interested individuals who hope to work with Nebraska Children to come up with long-term solutions for childcare in the McCook area. If you have thoughts or would like to become more involved in this, let me know.

This month, we will convene task forces to help us develop our next strategic plan. Some of the main topics we’ll focus on including housing, business retention, expansion, and transitions, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and recruitment. Some of the questions I have going into our task force meetings include:

  • What would be the best incentives we could provide to improve our housing?
  • How can we help businesses transition to the next generation of owners?
  • How do we develop the next generation of business owners?
  • What programs and awareness will help us train and recruit people to fill the jobs we already have available?
  • What new educational programs do we need to develop to meet our employment needs?
  • How do we encourage entrepreneurship and help startups take off successfully?

There are a variety of other questions, but if you have thoughts on any of these topics, please let me know so we can consider it as we develop our strategic plan.

Finally, I would encourage you to attend the Mid-Plains Community College Public Input Session October 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the student union. I have firsthand knowledge on how important this information is in planning the college’s strategic plan. The college is a great local asset and it is important for local employers and McCook Community College to be able to expand the technical offerings. There is the opportunity to work with area high schools on this expansion, but we need to speak up and offer to help where we can.

If you have thoughts on any of the following, please let me know at andy@mccookne.org or 308-345-1200.

Lopez Family Purchases Business Park Lot

AREA News, Events, News, Photo Feature - 09.05.18

Maria and Luis Lopez stand next to the entrance of the McCook Business Park, where they have begun work to open their auto/diesel shop next spring.

This May, McCook Economic Development Corporation welcomed the newest owners to the Industrial Park when Luis and Maria Lopez purchased #1 Industrial Park Drive. The Lopez family has moved to McCook from Denver with their four children, Felipe, 19, Anthony, 16, Maria Giselle, 12, and Isabel, 10.  They are planning to have their auto mechanic and diesel shop open in the spring of 2019.

Luis and Maria became familiar with McCook thanks to a good friend, Omar Carbajal. During their visits to McCook, the idea of moving to a smaller community grew for the Lopez’s.

Luis has owned his own repair shop in Denver since 2013. They sold their shop in Denver and have used the proceeds from the sale to move, buy and fix up a home, and now start to build their shop in McCook. They are doing most of the work themselves to get up and running and are excited for the opportunity to become a part of the community.

The Lopez family purchased the fourth business lot sold. Silverstone was the first occupant who came in 2002. Eleven years later, in 2013, Booe Machinery and Salvage became the second owner. Then, last year Next Generation made a major investment into the industrial park to expand their network of liquid storage for the agriculture industry. There are still four lots for sale at the industrial park.