City of Norfolk Targets Young Talent to Build Workforce and Community Collaboration, Earning State Honor

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City of Norfolk Targets Young Talent to Build Workforce and Community Collaboration, Earning State Honor

Left to right: Steven Rames, Norfolk Public Works Director and City Engineer; Valerie Grimes, Planning & Development Director; Danielle Myers-Noelle, City Attorney; Candace Schmidt, Communications Manager; Mayor Josh Moenning; Lyndsy Jenness, Northeast Business Development Consultant for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development; Candice Alder, Economic Developer;  Jennifer Olson, Economic Development Assistant; and Andy Colvin, City Administrator and Economic Development Director. Not pictured: Randy Gates, Finance Officer.

Evolving efforts to attract and retain young professionals through growing businesses and housing developments in the city of Norfolk (pop. 24, 651) have earned ongoing recognition from the State of Nebraska. This week, the Department of Economic Development (DED) announced Norfolk’s recertification in Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program. DED Business Development Consultant Lyndsy Jenness honored local leaders during a special presentation on Monday, November 2.

Norfolk is one of 40 Nebraska communities to earn EDCC status in the program, sponsored by the Nebraska Diplomats and administered by DED. State officials established the EDCC program in 2005 to recognize communities for preparedness to attract new industries and grow existing businesses. As part of the certification process, qualifying communities must identify a well-defined program that actively engages with their existing business community and offers a supportive environment for welcoming new economic development projects. This includes documenting available sites and buildings, local financing and incentive programs, and a strategic plan for economic development. The City of Norfolk received its first EDCC certification in 2006 and earned recertifications in 2010, 2015 and 2020.

Growing partnerships between local and regional organizations over the past five years have resulted in several successful economic projects since Norfolk’s last EDCC certification. The City recently celebrated the groundbreaking of Bradford Business Park, acquired and marketed by Greater Norfolk Economic Development Foundation, as a 140-acre, shovel-ready development site. Support from the Norfolk City Council and financial partnerships with Midwest, Elkhorn Valley, First National, and Frontier Banks assisted in the project, which will soon be home to two area businesses. Ewing-based agriculture technology company FieldWise and Heartland Beverage, originally founded as Adamson Distributing in O’Neill, announced expansion projects at the business park’s groundbreaking in late September.

Local leaders’ ongoing workforce development efforts compliment the community’s commitment to building opportunities for new and expanding businesses. Growing relationships with the Aksarben Foundation and regional partners assisted in the formation of Northeast Nebraska Growing Together, which prioritizes workforce development and population retention strategies for 20 to 35-year-olds. The program features a variety of activities designed to assist in the development of young professionals, including cooperative scholarships for four-year degree students, new public and private development, venture capital sourcing and workforce retraining opportunities. Additional opportunities focus on early childhood education and a series of art installations throughout the target area.

“As one of Nebraska’s first EDCCs, the City of Norfolk is led by innovators who understand the importance in engaging business owners, employees and students to create economic growth,” said Nebraska Diplomats President Dan Duncan. “Input from a variety of talented professionals, in a variety of local industries, has encouraged the formation of strategic programs that foster regional development. These ongoing educational opportunities promote Nebraska’s workforce attraction and retention efforts, which are often led by our EDCCs.

The Norfolk Now Community Marketing Initiative provides an additional opportunity to retain and attract local workforce by promoting connections between professionals and their peers. The initiative’s central platform was designed to share information about local amenities, services and companies unique to Norfolk and northeast Nebraska. Norfolk Now was created through a partnership between the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau, the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce and the Norfolk Area Economic Development Council.

“In recent years, we’ve worked hard to shout to the world that Norfolk is open for business,” said Mayor Josh Moenning. “The results are millions of dollars in new business investments, record sales tax receipts and a community that actively supports a growing class of creative small business entrepreneurs. Outcomes like these don’t happen by chance; they require partnerships, collaboration and strategic planning. Norfolk is fortunate to have an exceptionally strong network of economic development professionals leading and assisting these efforts.”

Efforts to expand local housing opportunities were spearheaded following a 2016 housing study, which identified a need to facilitate 444 owner-occupied units and 318 rental units by 2021. Economic development leaders, City staff, housing developers and community partners worked together to identify suitable land for the development of new housing and local incentives. Ongoing discussions resulted in the construction of local housing developments, including Nor-Park, Legacy Bend, Heritage Communities, Medelman’s Lake, Victory Village and Madison Villas.

Several community place-making projects were also spearheaded by City leaders, including Miracle Skatepark renovations, downtown revitalization efforts and ongoing riverfront development strategies.

“The City of Norfolk continues to promote safe and affordable housing, quality jobs and unique social opportunities made possible by ongoing partnerships that benefit Norfolk, northeast Nebraska and our entire state,” Duncan said. “The State of Nebraska values and appreciates its ongoing partnership with this outstanding community.”

For additional information on the Economic Development Certified Community program, contact Ashley Rice-Gerlach at 308-655-0919 or ashley.gerlach@nebraska.gov, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/economic-development-certified-community-edcc/.