MEDC Seeks ‘Yes’ Vote For Future Community Growth

AREA News, News, Photo Feature - 05.05.16

In addition to choosing a presidential candidate in the May primary, McCook voters will determine the direction of the community’s future growth when they head to the polls on Tuesday, May 10.

The McCook Economic Development Corporation encourages voters to approve a ballot measure that would continue allocating a portion of the city’s LB840 sales tax funds to the McCook Growth Fund to create jobs, attract and retain businesses, solve housing shortages and grow the population and tax base for the next 15 years.

MEDC Board Member Dennis Berry said the tax has already been approved, so a “yes” vote does not create a new tax. The vote would simply continue allocating the tax funds to economic development as it has been for the past eight years.

“Without the funding to operate and provide all the assistance that we do to businesses, our community would be much smaller that it is today,” Berry said. “Our future would be much dimmer without these funds.”

LB840 authorizes Nebraska cities to collect and appropriate local sales tax dollars for economic development, if approved by local voters. Nearly 70 cities in Nebraska have approved such funds.

The MEDC would like McCook to remain among those Nebraska cities that are taking active steps toward growth and development.

“This is a tool that other communities have and are using and are successful with it,” Berry said. “Without it, we are at an even greater disadvantage to attract new businesses to the community or retain the businesses that we do have.”

In the past, Berry said the LB840 funds have given MEDC the resources to grow the population, improve the community and create jobs.

“The best predictor of the future is what has happened in the past,” Berry said. “We know that the MEDC has been very instrumental in helping create and maintain more than 1,000 jobs in the community.”

McCook voters previously approved allocating LB840 funds for economic development in 2007, which resulted in $2.7 million that was used to renovate the Keystone Hotel into a thriving business center, to kick-start local housing projects, to offer gap-financing loans to local businesses and to provide grants to businesses for façade enhancements.

Without the sales tax allocation, growth and development in the city could come to a standstill after 2018, when the current allocation is set to expire. A “yes” vote would continue the funding for another 15 years, until June 30, 2033. This would generate an estimated $400,000 annually for economic development projects, or $6 million over 15 years.

The LB840 funds could be used for the following:

  • Loans, grants and loan guarantees for qualifying businesses;
  • Business recruitment, retention and expansion;
  • Attraction and recruitment of new residents and workforce;
  • Purchase of real estate or options for such purchases;
  • Entrepreneurship and new business development programs;
  • Infrastructure for qualifying businesses for water, sewer, streets and sidewalks;
  • Construction and rehabilitation of housing for workforce and persons of low to moderate income;
  • Operations and salaries of program administrators;
  • All other economic development activities allowable under Nebraska law determined to be beneficial to the city and surrounding areas.

The MEDC would continue to administer the programs and would also seek additional funding from private donors, grants and other sources to further enhance development opportunities.

According to the updated McCook Economic Development Plan, “Economic diversification will continue to be a critical priority for McCook’s Economic Development Program. The recruitment of new business from outside and development of new businesses from inside the area will strengthen diversification. In addition to recruitment, the city can create job opportunities by helping existing businesses in the city to expand their markets and compete more successfully. The successful marketing of McCook as a center for opportunity is important to the city’s effort to expand its labor force and attract new residents.”

A Citizens Advisory Review Committee consisting of at least five registered voters would be appointed to review the functions and progress of the economic development program.

For more information about MEDC programs, 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.