A south-central Nebraska community’s growing online presence, building demolition work and street and façade improvements has earned recognition from the State of Nebraska for ongoing efforts in economic growth. This week, the Department of Economic Development (DED) honored the City of Blue Hill (pop.941) as the agency’s newest Leadership Certified Community (LCC). DED Business Development Consultant and LCC Program Director Kelly Gewecke honored local leaders during a special presentation at the city’s monthly board meeting on January 9th.

Blue Hill is the 20th 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 for 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.

Over the past year, local leaders’ focus on city facade developments resulted in a blight and substandard study to pinpoint areas for improvement. Collaboration between the community and South Central Economic Development District (SCEDD) spurred efforts for a nuisance abatement program, which allocated nearly $2,500 for property assessments, cleanup and vehicle towing.

A street repair project, completed this fall on Liberty and Hickory Streets, contributed to the city’s overall façade and structural improvement efforts. City leaders installed new sidewalks, put up banners and purchased holiday lights for use in Blue Hill’s business district between 2014 and 2016. In addition, the city’s water tower was inspected, cleaned and disinfected in 2016.

“Continued improvements to structures that provide essential amenities in Blue Hill show that our community is focused on serving our residents in our beautiful and unique community,” Blue Hill Clerk Tricia Allen said. “Completing these projects, in conjunction with our efforts to become a Leadership Certified Community, created an opportunity to prepare our city for growth.“

Blue Hill leaders also assessed the need for improvements at multi-generational community hot spots. Since 2015, the city repaired concrete and purchased new furniture, stoves and lighting for the Community Senior Center. A baseball field project was completed in 2014 and 2015, which included installation of an equipment shed and resurfacing the ball fields. New shingles in the downtown park school house were finished in 2015. In addition, the city completed a building study of an old grade school, removed asbestos and demolished the building to create space for a new community pool.

“Nebraskans who take pride in their communities continuously work to create inviting, secure spaces to build a great quality of life,” said LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke. “By prioritizing structural improvements in popular gathering spaces, Blue Hill leaders are building incentives to retain and grow their city for generations to come. We are excited to welcome Blue Hill as Nebraska’s 20th LCC community.”

Blue Hill city officials spent a portion of 2017 updating the community’s website, which details zoning and subdivision regulations, the city’s strategic plan, and highlights area schools, businesses and amenities.

“Putting Blue Hill on the map and growing our online presence tells others about the history of our community and all it has to offer,” Allen said. “Drawing in visitors from Nebraska and beyond is a great step to help us highlight what Blue Hill residents already know; that we are a wonderful, thriving community.”