MEDC Helps Local Businesses Bring In New Money

AREA News, News, Photo Feature - 04.26.16

The McCook Economic Development Corporation and sales tax funds were the missing pieces of the puzzle that helped American Agricultural Laboratory and other local businesses grow the McCook area economy and bring new money and employees into the community.

“They’ve been very instrumental in making the whole project work,” American Agricultural Laboratory owner Kevin Grooms said of the MEDC’s help in their recent move and expansion into the former Alco building.

From connecting Kevin and his wife, Christine, to people who helped them write a business plan to directing them to various sources of financing, the MEDC was a big part of the process.

“It’s been a finely orchestrated dance, and I would say Rex (Nelson) was the conductor on the whole thing,” Grooms said.

Former MEDC Executive Director Rex Nelson said the American Agricultural Labs project was important for several reasons.

“We are excited about it because it not only adds good jobs, but it’s a true export business that bring in funds from outside the community,” he said. “And it filled an empty building, which is a big deal.”

Jim Ulrich, MEDC Board President, said that the injection of new money into the community creates a higher level growth.

“Strong economic growth does not happen if we all just trade goods and services between ourselves,” Ulrich said. “Providing goods and services that benefit our citizens as well as those outside of our community and region are vital for a healthy community and in being a regional hub.”

American Ag Labs is a full service ag laboratory specializing in the analysis of soil, feed, fertilizer and water. They serve customers in North and Central America, and have received samples from Europe and the former Soviet Union. Their business has been growing as they give attention to customer service, accurate results and fast turn-around time and as more farmers are seeking to diminish input costs and maximize efficiency because of lower commodity prices.

The expansion allowed the lab to add four new full-time jobs since the start of the process. Operations in the new location began the end of January.

When Kevin and Christine realized they needed to expand their staff and work space, they turned to the MEDC to help find a building and financing. Once the Alco building was identified, the wheels started moving on the other pieces. They were pointed in the right direction to obtain a $297,000 grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development Site and Building Fund to help purchase and renovate the former Alco building. The MEDC was the official recipient of the grant, and then extended the funds to Ag Labs.

A condition of the grant was that there was community buy-in to the project as well, so MEDC awarded Ag Labs a $75,000 loan to help with the project. That loan was made possible through McCook Growth Fund local-option sales tax funds. McCook residents will vote on May 10 whether to continue allocating sales tax funds to for other similar economic development incentives.

Crittersville is another area business that is continuing to bring new money into the community and has been helped by an McCook Growth Fund loan.

Brian and Amanda Warren prevented a pet-brokering business based in rural Culbertson from relocating to another regional they purchased it from the former business owner who wanted to retire. They sell pets to stores across the Midwest and employ two part-time workers besides themselves.

The Warrens received a $75,000 loan from the McCook Growth Fund to help with working capital expenses when they first purchased the business in 2012.

“It was definitely very necessary for our business,” Brian Warren said. “It was a piece of the puzzle that we had to make it work.”

For more information about the upcoming vote or local economic development activities, please contact the MEDC at (308) 345-1200.