Fourteen businesses launched at Keystone Business Center

AREA News, News, Photo Feature - 03.14.16

Six years ago, the historic Keystone Hotel sat empty on a main corner of downtown McCook.

Today, through the work of the McCook Economic Development Corporation, that hotel has become the thriving Keystone Business Center and has helped launch 14 new businesses that are now providing jobs and services to Red Willow County and beyond.

“There’s a presupposition out there that the primary means of economic development is recruiting outside businesses,” MEDC Executive Director Rex Nelson said. “And, in rural communities, that does not hold true.”

Most jobs come from expansions and new business creation, he said.

“In small communities, one of the things we need to do is help our entrepreneurs succeed and grow into businesses that create jobs and help expand the tax base,” Nelson said.

Half of the funding for the $4.2 million Keystone renovation came from a federal Economic Development Association grant. Approximately a quarter of the funds came from the local-option LB840 sales tax money and another quarter was borrowed from local banks and repaid with income generated from the completed project. McCook residents will vote on May 10 whether to continue directing LB840 funds to economic development projects such as the Keystone.

The Keystone Business Center, which opened in September 2010, offers a tiered rental contract, charging businesses a below market rate rent the first year, market rate the second year and then slightly above market rate the third year and beyond. Other businesses who are not start-ups also rent space at Keystone and are charged a higher rate.

20/20 Technologies is one of the Keystone Business Center’s success stories. McCook native Brett Warren started the IT company in 2011. He began providing IT consulting to rural schools that could not afford their own IT staff and quickly learned his services were in high demand. He moved to Keystone in 2012 when he needed to hire an employee.

He was attracted to the Keystone’s low price, its convenient and professional location in downtown McCook and its amenities, such as conference rooms and video-conferencing technology.

“We started in a little tiny office” Warren said of his first location at Keystone. “Then we moved to a little bigger office. Now we’ve got the entire half of the fourth floor.”

20/20 Technologies now employs six others besides himself and provides IT consulting to government offices and other larger entities besides schools.

Nelson said there is nearly constant movement among the tenants in the building as they grow and need more space. The Sew Blessed quilt store and Engineering International both recently moved to larger spaces within Keystone because of expansion needs.

Jeff Tidyman, owner of Engineering International, started his architect and engineering firm from his home in Curtis and then moved to the Keystone shortly after it opened in 2010.

He enjoys the access he has to other building tenants, such as the MEDC, the Nebraska Business Development Center and REAP (Rural Enterprise Assistance Project), which has office hours at Keystone monthly.

“Working with other people and being away from the distractions of the house is huge for me,” he said.

Ann Barger of Adventure Travel and Faith Hyde of McCook Weight Loss Center have moved into the Keystone, and two other businesses, American Family Insurance has moved out and attorney Sagan Carmen Downer will be moving out.

“These changes do leave us with space for rent right now for both retail and professional businesses,” Nelson said. “It is a good thing though, as it indicates

healthy growth of our businesses. We like to see them grow and succeed, but also to try things that might not work. That is all part of the creative process of entrepreneurship. We have had 14 successful startups at the Keystone Business Center. That’s a great addition to the overall business mix in McCook. When you add that value to the preservation of a beautiful historic building and avoiding a big potential demolition liability it really adds up to win for the community.”

For a listing of current Keystone Businesses, visit:

http://mccookne.org/keystone-business-center/business-directory/

For more information about MEDC, please visit the MEDC web site at www.mccookne.org or call the MEDC at (308) 345-1200. The mission of the MEDC is to facilitate the formation, retention, attraction and expansion of businesses in McCook and the surrounding area.