Economic development district shares its good news

July 28, 2018

Those attending the annual meeting of the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District (NENEDD) meeting had the chance to see the organization’s annual report, awards given out — and even a keynote speaker with a trick up his sleeve.

The economic development agency was pleased to report that it had invested, through grants and loans, $6.5 million to 25 communities in Northeast Nebraska over the past year. Overall, that money helped create and retain 78 jobs and build and assist 38 homeowners.

In Norfolk alone, the district’s investments have created 32 jobs — 30 of those because of a Community Development Block Grant the district helped with on behalf of ContiTech USA.

Several businesses, communities and individuals from around the region were recognized with awards at the noon luncheon at The Stables in Norfolk.

The City of Fremont was awarded the Doug Bereuter Accomplished Community Award. Fremont was recognized for its investments in creating jobs and securing homes for workers.

According to NENEDD, Fremont has invested more than $10 million using Local Option Economic Development Funds and Community Development Block Grants to create more than 1,000 jobs. NENEDD and its housing program have helped 13 businesses and at least two homeowners with loans and down payment assistance.

A Fremont electrician was awarded the Housing Partnership Award. Tyler Thomas of T&T Electric was recognized for his efforts in repairing and rehabilitating homes throughout Fremont.

Anne Kinnison of Columbus was given the Outstanding Service Award. Kinnison is the former city finance director at Columbus. Tina Engelbart, the NENEDD’s deputy director, said Kinnison dedicated her time with the city to helping workers and saving tax dollars.

The Entrepreneurial Advancement Award given to Eugene Rahn of Atkinson. He is a senior loan specialist with the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project, helping small businesses throughout the region.

The keynote speaker at the meeting was Karl Elmshaeuser, the Nebraska state director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Elmshaeuser, who was appointed by President Donald Trump last November, said the USDA has been working to facilitate rural development after a executive order last year.

“We’re working to see what the government can do, or how it can get out of the way of, rural development,” Elmshaeuser said.

He said the USDA has found three core ideas to foster rural development: infrastructure, innovation and partnerships.

He said agencies like the NENEDD embody all three of those core tenets, and the organization is a “forward-focused” group that helps rural populations.

“When a group of people come together to work toward a goal for the common good,” he said. “Amazing things can happen.”

To conclude his talk, Elmshaeuser showed off some mathematical, if not magical, skills. Using two Rubik’s cubes, he scrambled one by himself and had a group of audience members near him scramble another.

The two cubes ended up being exactly identical. He used the trick to drive home his final point.

“When you listen to people, you get a better idea of what the issue is,” he said. “On a Rubik’s cube there are 43 quintillion possibilities. Isn’t it amazing that they can end up being exactly the same? By knowing the people and the issues, the solutions are much easier to find.”

Awarded grant

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer announced Thursday that the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District has received a $210,000 investment award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

“It’s wonderful to see the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District receive this grant,” she said. “Because of this award, the district can develop and implement strategic business plans to strengthen communities. This grant will allow for proper planning to spur investment and job creation in the region.

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