Left to right: NGage Executive Director Trevor Lee; Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Angie Bruna; Gage County Supervisor Erich Tiemann; Mayor Stan Wirth; NGage President Andrea Schafer; Mainstreet Beatrice President Danielle Fairbanks; City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer; Mainstreet Beatrice Executive Director Michael Sothan.
SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIPS AND A CLEAR VISION FOR THE FUTURE LED TO BEATRICE’S SELECTION AS NEBRASKA’S 2020 GOVERNOR’S SHOWCASE COMMUNITY.
In Beatrice, “Stake Your Claim” is more than just a catchy slogan. It’s the product of a community coming together to pursue a concrete blueprint for economic growth and a higher quality of life.
In 2014, local stakeholders including the City, Gage County, NGage, the local Chamber, Beatrice Public Schools and others united to form a vision — a common branding strategy that they felt reflected the determination, pride and spirit of progress embodied in the community.
“Our accomplishments have been the result of a communicative and collaborative effort,” said Mayor Stan Wirth. “The fact that we were able to come together as a group focused on economic development explains the success we’ve been able to achieve and the inroads we’ve been able to make with business, industry and
quality of life in our city.”
Together, the group was able to pinpoint common areas essential to Beatrice’s growth and competitiveness: areas like available, affordable housing; a vibrant downtown; quality schools and the growth of the skilled workforce. Elements that could promote new opportunities and foster a sense of community pride.
Thanks to this all-hands-on-deck approach, Beatrice’s achievements over the past five years alone have been laying the foundation for long-term, sustainable growth.
For example, with support from two rounds of CDBG funding for downtown revitalization — administered by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development — a sweeping façade improvement program has brought new vibrancy to the city’s historic commercial district while sparking the growth of local businesses. Since 2016 alone, approximately 60 businesses have opened, relocated or expanded in downtown Beatrice, and are serving to attract families and young professionals to the area. In fact, by recent figures, CDBG-funded downtown improvements have sparked more than $3 million in local investment since 2018.
The renovation of the historic Mercantile Building is a marquee example of Downtown Beatrice’s recent progress and new vibe. A 21,000 square foot building from the 1950s that was vacant and nearing the point of demolition, the Mercantile was recently purchased by local citizens and renovated into an attractive commercial space that now houses multiple businesses.
“The Mercantile is a terrific example of the engagement and citizen involvement you can often expect to see when a city invests in downtown revitalization. The CDBG program has been a tremendously valuable tool in our economic development efforts.”
-STAN WIRTH, MAYOR
“The Mercantile is a terrific example of the engagement and citizen involvement you can often expect to see when a city invests in downtown revitalization,” said Wirth. “The CDBG program has been a tremendously valuable tool in our economic development efforts.”
On the housing front, the construction or rehabilitation of dozens of new homeowner and rental units since 2016 — with over a hundred more now planned or underway — has been making room for new families and the city’s fast-growing workforce, who are attracted by growing job opportunities. In a unique example, a donation to the City of the former Beatrice Community Hospital building and grounds enabled the creation of 10 single-family homes and 16 units for senior residents; other creative housing solutions have ranged from upper-level downtown development to “tiny home” rentals.
Outdoor and recreational amenities have also been a priority, with the citizen-led “Beatrice On the Move” coalition helping the city achieve its goals for pedestrian- and bikefriendliness. The completion of the 35-plus-mile Standing Bear Trail, for example — which runs all the way to Marysville, Kansas — has attracted hikers and touring cyclists from throughout the region.
Meanwhile, the city’s industrial growth has made headlines, with corporate standard-bearer Site Selection magazine naming Beatrice America’s #14 micropolitan for capital expansion projects in 2018, and number one in Nebraska. The multi-million-dollar investment of local job creator Exmark Manufacturing exemplifies the type of new activity that is proving the success of the community’s business attraction and economic development efforts.
The list of achievements continues, whether it’s a state-of-the-art fire station funded with overwhelming support from a local bond measure; expansive renovations to Southeast Community College’s Beatrice Campus; or early workforce initiatives that are preparing local youth for the in-demand careers of tomorrow. Wirth feels it’s the result of a city coming together to look ahead and think big; proof that a community can make big strides when it is willing to put a little skin in the game.
“Winning the Governor’s Showcase Community Award is a tremendous achievement that validates how hard we’ve been working to not just sustain ourselves as a community, but to become something even better for tomorrow,” he said. “We look forward to building on this momentum as we continue to stake our claim.”