Left to Right: Box Butte Development Corporation Executive Dir. Chelsie Herian; City Manager Jeffry Sprock; Nebraska Department of Economic Development Business Development Consultant Brittany Hardin; City Finance Director Randy Waggener.
This week, the City of Alliance (pop. 8,100) achieved its recertification as an Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC), and was recognized during a formal ceremony attended by Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) Business Development Field Staff.
“The City of Alliance appreciates partnering with the State of Nebraska and Box Butte Development Corporation to renew its EDCC status,” said Jeff Sprock, City Manager. “The renewal helps the City to be proactive in developing economic opportunities through marketing, strategic planning, housing initiatives and infrastructure development, which will strengthen existing businesses and attract new employers. Maintaining this status is also critical to accessing state and federal funding available for economic development, which is vital to local stability, the promotion of growth and maintaining a strong, cohesive community.”
This is the third time Alliance has been recognized as an EDCC since the program’s inception in 2005 — proving the community continues to demonstrate the commitment, collaboration, know-how, determination and sheer scrappiness required to not just maintain the status quo, but to grow and thrive.
“Communities the size of Alliance aren’t sheer people magnets like Lincoln or Omaha,” said DED Director Anthony L. Goins. “They earn each new family, every new business that comes to town by constantly telling their story. By showcasing the truly unique quality of life they have to offer, and by continuously working to improve and grow.
Nowhere does this sentiment ring truer than in Alliance, where local leaders — from City officials to the staff at Box Butte Development Corporation (BBDC) — embrace the word “proactive.” If EDCC certification is about showing that a community is prepared to promote and accommodate growth and new opportunities, then Alliance has it in spades and then some thanks to its passionate community leaders and engaged residents.
When Shopko announced it was permanently closing last year, for instance, economic developers made the most of a tough situation, spearheading a one-of-a-kind “Retail Forum” that brought local businesses together to weigh an expansion opportunity awaiting anyone brave enough to grab hold. The result? The space was soon bought by a local family hardware store, which has since capitalized on the new square-footage to grow its product and service lines.
Such stories aren’t exceptions to the norm. They’re the way Alliance does business. The “Perfect Blend” coffee meetings and Chamber Ambassador Events that occur each month at select local businesses are proof-in-action. Here, proprietors and entrepreneurs are asked to sit around the bonfire, so to speak, and share their thoughts and experiences about the local economic climate. The BRE (Business Retention and Expansion) interviews BBDC conducts each month are in a similar vein, as is the awards banquet held each year to recognize entrepreneurs and businesses that have made a local impact. As of this year, there’s also an official partnership between BBDC and the City with the express purpose of breaking down obstacles to the success of local business.
Alliance also knows the importance of having the right ingredients for growth, and it shows in what it has to offer for business that are new to town or looking to expand. The City’s Local Option Municipal Economic Development (LB840) program, for example, has distributed almost $500,000 in forgivable and non-forgivable loans to local firms in the past five years alone — sparking growth in the local manufacturing, value-added agricultural and retail industries. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs and small businesses can access a $5,000 small business grant, repayment-free for firms that stay in business for at least three years.
The City and BBDC also continue to focus on attraction and retention, using multimedia marketing, YouTube, social media blitzes and custom tourism campaigns to consistently bring in new visitors and residents. The highly successful “Business and Industry Days” program for middle and high school students is a results-getting recruitment strategy that’s giving local youth more reasons to stay home or return to Alliance as young professionals to launch a career or raise a family. Meanwhile, by following a Strategic Plan and conducting an annual SWOT analysis, community leaders are able to keep creating new goals, monitor milestones and control the path of progress.
Alliance has been rewarded for its concerted efforts by seeing a vision of growth come to fruition. There’s the multi-million-dollar renovation and expansion of Box Butte General Hospital, for example, with a new clinic planned for nearby Hemingford in 2020. Or the new Holiday Inn Express and three-bay strip mall that will take shape over the course of the same year. There’s the expansion of local employers like Jelinek Custom Cleaning, which invested $5.5 million within the community last year. There’s the $900,000 track renovation at the local high school, which has created added space for economy-boosting sporting events. Or the upcoming, mammoth effort to revitalize the town’s entry off Hwy 385, with new sights and streetscapes that are sure to entice passers-by. Just to name a few.
“The EDCC program, at its core, is about celebrating the hard work, collaboration and commitment toward a goal that underlie just about every success in economic development,” said Nebraska Diplomats President Daniel Duncan. “The City of Alliance, BBDC, the businesses community and the residents of Box Butte County deserve special recognition for exemplifying the progress that can occur when we execute on a vision to better our communities and grow our state.”
To learn more about the Economic Development Certified Community program, including how to apply, contact Ashley Rice-Gerlach at 308-655-0919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/economic-development-certified-community-edcc/.