The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) has recognized the City of Alma (pop. 1133) as the agency’s newest Leadership Certified Community (LCC) in the State of Nebraska. DED Business Development Consultant and LCC Program Director Kelly Gewecke honored local leaders, elected officials and community supporters during a special presentation at the city’s monthly board meeting on November 15.

Alma is the 19th community to qualify for DED’s LCC program, created in 2011 to help Nebraska communities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Qualifying communities must demonstrate an understanding of and preparedness in strategic and community planning, as well as display readiness in technological development to help new and existing businesses grow. Certified communities earn designation in the program for five years and are required to update and maintain information and websites.

“Alma has worked hard to become a proactive community in today’s competitive and challenging rural economic environment,” Alma Mayor Hal Haeker said. “Becoming an LCC is a great honor in the State of Nebraska, and often serves as an important benchmark for local economic growth. The LCC designation is another step in our efforts to become a more viable and sustainable community to grow Alma’s reputation as a destination in south-central Nebraska.”

Over the past two years, city officials have reached out to business leaders and stakeholders to gather input about new economic development opportunities. Residents participated in a Community Needs Assessment (CNA) survey in November 2015, which showed a need for repairs on Alma’s existing homes and demand for new housing. With the assistance from the South Central Economic Development District, the city recently submitted an application for funding from DED’s Owner Occupied Rehabilitation (OOR) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. If approved, funding will assist homeowners with up to $25,000 in improvement efforts per home. Since 2016, Alma officials have been collaborating with the owners of 20 acres on the west side of town to create a housing subdivision. The city is currently in the preliminary plat stage of the lot, which will require a public hearing for additional input. If approved, the new subdivision will have up to 48 lots for purchase.

City officials continue strategic planning to build further commercial development within the City of Alma. In July 2016, Alma’s City Council voted to annex more than 100 acres north of the community to promote additional space for new businesses. Next spring, the city will install gas and water lines surrounding the annexed area in an overall effort to secure infrastructure.

Local leaders are also working to provide Alma’s current residents with additional incentives to live and work in the community. In June of 2017, city officials celebrated the completion of Alma’s Municipal Airport terminal building and two private hangers. The additions complement a crop dusting business at the facility that opened in 2015.

“The City of Alma’s success in securing new housing, commercial business space, and travel amenities are all great examples of community progress,” said LCC Program Director Kelly Gewecke. “Collaboration between local leaders and residents are often at the heart of economic growth in rural Nebraska. DED’s Leadership Certified Community program recognizes local communities who put teamwork at the forefront of development opportunities.”

The community continues to enjoy a strong retail presence in Alma’s downtown business sector. Economic leaders are currently working to fill Alma’s two remaining downtown business spaces and reopen the local bowling alley. City Administrator Doug Wilson says the efforts exemplify the community’s growth and morale.

“The City of Alma is proud to earn recognition as an LCC, and community-wide efforts made this possible. We are confident that this certification will continue to lead Alma down additional paths to growth and economic opportunities.”

For more information about the Leadership Certified Community Program visit