Every year there is a week in the spring that is nationally dedicated to community development, aptly named Community Development Week. This week recognizes the efforts made by communities across the nation to improve the livelihoods and growth of their towns. Nebraska honors its communities during Community Development Week by awarding the Showcase Community Award (SCA) to the community that has shown the best effort and accomplishments in a five-year period with a primary focus on Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) projects. The 2014 SCA winner was Hartington (pop. 1,540), with an Honorable Mention awarded to Norfolk (pop. 24,210). Both communities proved their dedication to good life and growth by completing a slew of projects aimed at community improvement.
Hartington focused heavily on revitalizing its downtown area, procuring a $350,000 CDBG grant to help fund infrastructure improvements in 2011. Community leaders also recognized the necessity of adding more affordable housing to meet the needs of community members, as well as to attract possible incoming residents. The Westfield Acres housing project built 19 new homes with $400,000 in CDBG money aiding the development. With an attractive downtown and booming residential area, new businesses followed – a sign of good economic growth for the City of Hartington. Hartington also assisted in the start-up of Trail Manor Mfg. Company, LLC, by providing $505,000 in CDBG funds. The money went towards addressing inventory, equipment, and building renovations resulting in the creation of 20 new jobs. A warm congratulations is due to Hartington for its ability to unify community support to address community needs while maintaining a balanced focus on housing, economic development, and downtown revitalization.
Norfolk was a close second to Hartington, showing that progress in the present can help to preserve the community in the future. A top project priority for Norfolk was addressing its persistent community-wide concern for more housing. Norfolk received more than $375,000 in CDBG funds to invest towards housing rehabilitation citywide. Norfolk has also committed more than $900,000, through the Comprehensive Rehabilitation program toward housing rental rehabilitation and street improvements planning and implementation. These commitments show a well thought out focus on accessibility and bettering the living quality throughout the community.