The City of Atkinson (pop.1,245) has earned state recognition for leaders’ efforts to grow and market economic development opportunities within their community. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) announced this week that the city has qualified for membership in the State of Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. DED Business Development Consultant and LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke recognized local leaders during a special presentation at the City of Atkinson’s board meeting on Monday, June 4th.
Atkinson is Nebraska’s 23rd 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.
Local leaders’ commitment to economic growth have capitalized on development opportunities through the community’s LB840 program. The locally-administered program, enacted by Atkinson voters, collects sales tax dollars specifically dedicated to economic development. In 2017, the program assisted with the creation of one start-up company and two business expansion projects. Atkinson’s LB840 funding also contributed to efforts in workforce development, as well as a successful business transition project. Since its enactment in 2003, the program has provided funding for 49 development projects within the community.
“The Department of Economic Development is proud to recognize Atkinson leaders and their efforts to create and retain jobs in northeast Nebraska,” LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke said. “Rural communities like Atkinson thrive on new and growing businesses that expand the local tax base and build momentum for future developmental progress, which encourage Nebraskans to continue to work and raise their families in our state.”
Efforts to expand housing have also gained traction through the City of Atkinson and the Atkinson Housing Authority. Within the past year, the programs assisted with a rehabilitation project and a down-payment assistance project, made possible through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) awarded to the City of Atkinson. At the conclusion of 2017, city leaders implemented an additional program to assist residents with the demolition of sub-standard housing. The ongoing program contributes up to 75% of local demolition project costs. The city also is leading efforts in the current construction of a housing duplex project for low to moderate-income families. The Atkinson Housing Authority has partnered with independent living facility, Elkhorn Meadows, to create additional housing opportunities for seniors and disabled citizens.
Long-term goals among local leaders, formulated in part from community participation in a 2015 Comprehensive Survey and Plan, include the development of shovel-ready sites for commercial development. The survey and plan followed the city’s nine-acre purchase in 2009 designated for economic development projects. The Atkinson Community Development Authority purchased the site and have since sold and developed four of the nine lots on the property.
Efforts to market social and recreational opportunities are ongoing within the community. Recent grant funding awarded to the Atkinson Senior Center recently assisted with managerial and infrastructure improvements, as well as the implementation of educational and healthy living events. In addition, the city received funding from the Holt County Visitor’s Bureau for a new bathhouse facility at Mill Race Park and Campground.
“Community pride is growing in Atkinson, and our city’s LCC certification is another example of our residents’ willingness to step up and be involved,” Atkinson Mayor Paul Corkle said. “Whether it’s the construction of a local housing project or the recruitment of a new business to our community, our people are invested in economic development opportunities. Atkinson continues to prove that we are a progressive community, and our leaders are living up to our slogan that we are “Getting Things Done’!”
For information about the Leadership Certified Community Program, contact Kelly Gewecke at firstname.lastname@example.org, 308-627-3151, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/leadership-certified-community/.