Executive Director August 2018 Update

News, Photo Feature - 08.31.18

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.