News & Events

AREA News, Events, News, Photo Feature - 10.01.18

Executive Director September Update

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.

AREA News, Events, News, Photo Feature - 09.05.18

Lopez Family Purchases Business Park Lot

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.

AREA News, Events, News, Photo Feature - 08.31.18

Southwest Environmental Engineering is most recent Keystone ‘Graduate’

Southwest Environmental Engineering owners Jacque Riener and Dan Stoney stand outside their new location on West 7th with their Keystone Graduate certificate.

Business Partners Jacque Riener and Dan Stoney of Southwest Environmental Engineering are the most recent ‘graduates’ of the Keystone Business Center as they have outgrown their office location in the Keystone and have relocated to 204 West 7th Street. Southwest Environmental Engineering helps people comply with environmental regulations. This can include anything from a report to providing guidance through the legal framework with environmental regulations.

Southwest Environmental Engineering got its start in 2014 from Jacque’s kitchen table. Later in the year, Jacque and Dan were able to rent an office in the Keystone Business Center. Jacque said, “The Keystone was a good starting point for our business. With the initial equipment purchases we had to make, it was nice to have affordable office space in the Keystone.”

The networking was also good for Southwest Environmental Engineering as they were able to interact with other businesses in the building and connect with local business leaders who came to the building for meetings.

Dan and Jacque have been business partners since the beginning of the business. Dan does the field work while Jacque specializes in report writing. Their space in the Keystone, while good at the start, limited the amount of storage they had for samples.

The opportunity to purchase their current office space meets some of the current needs the business has. The garage provides storage needed for the business, as well as the increased exposure they have being located less than half a block from B St. The space also gives them additional land and office space and gives them the opportunity to grow

“This is exactly why McCook Economic Development Corporation turned the Keystone into a business incubator,” said Executive Director Andy Long. “The ability for new businesses to get a start in a location with resource providers being on-site and a community of other small businesses is valuable for our area. We’re excited Jacque and Dan have outgrown their space and look forward to our next tenant.”

The Keystone Business Center was purchased by the McCook Economic Development Corporation in 2009. Through a combination of support from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, Nebraska State Historical Society, LB 840 Growth Funds, TIF financing, individual donations, and debt financing, the Keystone was restored to serve as a business incubator. Southwest Environmental Engineering’s space is now available and startup businesses can receive an initial monthly rent at half the market rate for the first year. Contact MEDC at 308-345-1200 or andy@mccookne.org for more information.

News, Photo Feature - 08.31.18

Executive Director August 2018 Update

By Walt Disney (Original Trailer (1951)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, contains a conversation between the Cheshire Cat and Alice:

Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?” The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “It really doesn’t matter, does it?”

This can be true in our lives and organizations. After three months in this position, I can see we have a wide variety of opportunities to pursue. The challenge is a limit on the resources we have in time and money. Because of this, as an organization, we’ve gone through an orientation process and now are starting a strategic planning process to help us determine the roads we want to pursue.

As a part of this process we are creating task forces to do additional research and put together proposed plans for the board to consider. These task forces will have board members involved and hopefully a few people from the community. If you want to be more involved in our economic development plan, contact us, and we’ll get you involved with one of our task forces. Currently, there are five areas, we’re looking to include in our strategy.

Housing is one of the topics. A change in state law will expand how we can assist the community with housing in the future. A new part of our LB 840 growth plan we’re hoping to implement is the development and implementation of a workforce housing plan. A workforce housing plan is defined as a program to construct or rehabilitate single family housing or market rate multi-family housing which is designed to address a housing shortage that impairs the ability of a city to attract new businesses or the ability of existing businesses to recruit new employees. This is something I’ve heard is a need the entire time I’ve lived here.

Another task force area is with business retention, expansion, and transition. We’re always in the business of recruiting new businesses, but there is a lot of value in helping our current businesses grow. Usually, there is a better return on investment in a community from current businesses expanding as opposed to the recruitment of new. We hope to explore what support we can provide our current businesses. Part of this, is looking to find a way we can help attract the next generation of business owners to purchase the successful businesses of those looking to retire in the next few years.

A third area we’re looking to include in our new strategic plan is around workforce development. How can we do a better job of making our students aware of the local opportunities available to them and provide them the path to get the education they need to return for these opportunities? In addition, how can we recruit employees that have the skills our local businesses need? Workforce development can also look at the opportunities available for people already here who are underemployed or lacking the skills for living wage occupations.

Fourth, we hope to continue to find ways to encourage entrepreneurship. This area has a rich tradition of entrepreneurship and in the past it has been aided by programs that include the Hormel Entrepreneurship Program. It is exciting to see younger entrepreneurs who have found niches to be successful locally. We need to continue to provide programs to encourage the development and support needed for entrepreneurs to be successful here.

The final area that will have a task force is on business recruitment. Part of this is looking at retail recruitment and finding complementary retailers that will continue to keep McCook as the Southwest Nebraska retail hub. We also are always looking to recruit manufacturing, light industrial, and value enhanced agriculture operations. The recent additions in the Industrial Park east of Valmont that includes Next Generation, Booe Machinery and Salvage, and next spring a new auto/diesel shop have been good additions. We look to continue to find the businesses that fit our workforce and help build on our strengths.

If one of these areas is of interest to you, please contact me at andy@mccookne.org or 308-345-1200 so we can get you involved. The board and I don’t have all the answers and the best way to provide a strong path forward is through the involvement of a wide variety of people. We want to create a local economy that provides the opportunities that allow our children and other young people the opportunity to return to Southwest Nebraska.

In addition to our strategic planning, here are a few other updates from MEDC:

Mastermind Groups – Mastermind groups will begin meeting the week of September 10. If you are looking for a small group that will help in your development and can meet from 7:00-7:50 a.m. or 12:00-12:50 p.m. once a week, apply on-line to be a part of one of these groups at http://mccookne.org/mccook-mastermind-alliance/.

Keystone Graduate – We’re excited that Southwest Environmental Engineering has ‘graduated’ from their office in the Keystone to their new location on West 7th, to the north of Joltin Jo’s. This provides another office space in the Keystone for rent, and if you are a start-up, there is a significant reduced rate for the first two years.