Photo: Ashland leaders and economic developers gather to celebrate the city’s LCC designation in an official ceremony.
State of Nebraska Recognizes City for Strategic Partnerships to Encourage Community Growth
New housing and educational developments in the city of Ashland (pop. 2,523), created to recruit and retain talent in the community’s workforce, have earned new recognition from the State of Nebraska. Last week, the Department of Economic Development (DED) announced the City as Nebraska’s newest member of the Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. DED Southeast Nebraska Business Development Consultant Deb Eggleston honored City officials during a special presentation on Thursday, June 17.
Ashland is one of 30 Nebraska communities to qualify for DED’s LCC program, created in 2011 to help villages and municipalities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Certified communities must demonstrate an understanding for and preparedness in strategic planning, and display readiness in technological development to help new and existing businesses grow. Qualifying LCC’s earn status in the program for five years and are required to maintain community websites to market local development, which may include information on available sites and buildings and regional employment opportunities.
Ongoing leadership within the Ashland Area Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC) has encouraged multi-dimensional partnerships geared toward community growth. A 2017 study spearheaded by AAEDC and the Ashland Housing Authority helped to identify a variety of local housing needs. In 2019, Ashland Affordable Housing Partners celebrated the completion of 12 new townhomes. Saunders County partnered with the Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD) to receive a $547,000 grant from the Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund (NAHTF) for owner-occupied rehabilitation, where Ashland is a leading applicant. The funds will assist in the renovations of 18 units in Saunders County, including seven in Ashland. In addition, expansion of the community’s White Tail Housing Development is ongoing, and AAEDC is administering a $500,000 homebuyer assistance fund from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority.
Mayor Richard Grauerholz said local families and business owners continue to capitalize on Ashland’s community-minded, rural lifestyle.
“Residents appreciate the opportunity to live in this conveniently-located town with easy access to some of the state’s largest cities,” said Mayor Grauerholz. “This is verified by the ongoing development of new housing subdivisions, as well as Ashland’s growing number of new residents.”
Ashland’s Entrepreneurial Communities Activation Process (ECAP) emphasizes the need for volunteer efforts to support overall community development. ECAP members privately raised nearly $180,000 for the construction of a splashpad on City-donated land. An additional, local gathering space has served as Ashland’s library, senior center and meeting area since the building’s completion in 2013. The $5.1 million project was funded solely by private donors. Community voters have since approved the implementation of a ½ cent sales tax to fund operation and maintenance costs at the Ashland Community Resources Center.
Local voters recently supported a $59.9 million school bond issue for the creation of a new pre-K-second grade building and new middle school. Preparation work at the site is currently underway.
AAEDC continues to support efforts to connect local students to future careers in southeast Nebraska. Ashland’s School to Work program partners with area businesses to provide job shadowing opportunities for senior high school students. In addition, AAEDC fostered the creation of a Leadership Ashland organization in collaboration with the City, the Ashland-Greenwood School District and Civic Nebraska. The program encourages high school students to operate a student-led government to further understand the important role of local municipal leadership.
Community leaders have welcomed the recent development of two ongoing projects, including downtown revitalization efforts and a corridor revitalization project on Highway 6.
“Becoming an LCC has been a rewarding process for our entire community, and the relationships I’ve developed along the way have a provided a great foundation for Ashland moving forward,” said AAEDC Economic Development Director and SENDD Special Projects, Caleb Fjone. “While economic development is often challenging, Ashland’s supportive community makes the process worthwhile. I really couldn’t have jumped into this role without support from SENDD and our local leaders, and for that I am extremely grateful.
For additional information about the Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program,
contact Kelly Gewecke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 308-627-3151, or visit http://neded.org/community/community-info/community-improvement/leadershipcommunity.