Housing is an issue in almost every community and McCook is no exception.
So the McCook Economic Development Corp. is taking a pro-active step to address the issue with the addition of a Housing Development Director.
Amanda Engell (formerly Slattery) stepped into the newly-formed role last month, joining the team at the MEDC.
Engell graduated from McCook High School in 2015 and from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2019 with a degree in interior design and construction management. She also interned with Wilkins ADP (Architecture Design Planning), working on kitchen and bath designs.
Her husband, Will, is a sales manager at Wagner Chevrolet Buick and they got married three days before Engell started her new job.
Since starting as the housing development director, Engell has immersed herself in current MEDC and statewide programs, with the plan to make those resources available throughout the community. She also plans to dive deeper into the current housing market, including those houses not in use or those residences which need upkeep.
As Engell learns the ropes of her new job, she continually hears about the role of housing in nearly every issue affecting the community.
“There is not a lot of incentive to move a business to our community if there isn’t housing for the workers,” Engell said.
In regards to the current state of housing in McCook, Engell said there has not been a lot of housing development in recent years.
“The current stock is older, needs rehabbed or needs to be torn down,” she said. “One idea is to find funding to deal with vacant or dilapidated houses.”
And the rental market is not a lot better, with the common response to finding a rental being “good luck,” she said. “But housing shouldn’t be left up to luck.”
She added, “We need to educate landowners on being landlords and develop additional rental properties.”
As for the future of the housing situation, the MEDC already has several goals on the agenda and that is where Engell will play a vital role: to move those projects forward, including finding a developer to build a new apartment complex or duplexes.
She will also spend her time making connections with potential builders, getting the word out about resources available for new or upgraded housing. And down the road, the position may also involve property management but the priority is to develop more housing to address the community’s needs.
And Engell has a good understanding of construction jobs and working with contractors on projects, according to MEDC Director Charlie McPherson.
“We are excited to have her on our team and Amanda understands the importance and scope of the work ahead with our housing needs,” McPherson said. “She will be the person in direct contact with any developers in the area who have an interest in building housing and connecting them with resources, both local and statewide, as well as possible use of TIF financing and LB840 funds.”
And there is a dire need for housing.
According to a recent community housing study, McCook is 200 residences short of what is needed, McPherson said. “This affects the workforce, talent recruitment, even families returning to the area,” he said. “Anyone looking to come here is looking for a house.”
Engell admits that she doesn’t have much experience in housing or this line of work.
“But I’ve got great mentors and an EDC board ready and willing to help me,” she said. “And I’m excited to be back in the community and working with people to make things happen here.”
She is also excited to get involved in the community and make a difference.
“In order to keep McCook thriving, people my age need to step up and take on these challenges, working side-by-side with those who have been doing the work,” she said. “And then at some point, those people can sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor in a great community.”