Photo (left to right): South Central Economic Development District Assistant Director LeAnn Jochum; City Attorney Kory McCracken; City Council Chairman Gene Horne; Mayor Todd Brown; Economic Development Director Jarrod McCartney.
“Achieving LCC status shows that the State of Nebraska recognizes what we already knew: there is great work going on in the Red Cloud community due to focused and strategic collaboration.” – Jarrod McCartney, Red Cloud Community Foundation, Red Cloud Heritage Tourism Development
Progressive efforts to support tourism, downtown enhancements and early childhood development projects in the city of Red Cloud (pop. 1,020) have earned recognition from the State of Nebraska. The Department of Economic Development (DED) recently recognized Red Cloud as Nebraska’s newest Leadership Certified Community (LCC) for partnerships that have resulted in economic growth. DED LCC Program Coordinator and Central Nebraska Business Development Consultant, Kelly Gewecke, welcomed local partners into the program during a special presentation on February 8.
Red Cloud is one of 32 communities to earn status as an LCC in Nebraska. DED created the program 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 LCCs 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.
Red Cloud developers’ efforts to establish local, regional and state partnerships geared toward economic development and historic preservation have resulted in nearly $20 million in committed investments in the community. The completion of a $7 million National Willa Cather Center, a $2 million Valley Child Development Center and improvements to the Auld Public Library helped the community earn the Governor’s Community Showcase Award in 2018. The Showcase Award honors one Nebraska community a year for outstanding achievements in economic development. Red Cloud received an honorable mention award in the program in 2017.
Heritage Tourism Development is in the final stages of planning and fundraising for the Potter Block Development Project, which will transform a dilapidated downtown building into the new, 28-room Hotel Garber. The project, estimated at nearly $7 million, includes development of the Potter Block, which will feature a modern community meeting space and catering kitchen. In addition, artwork will depict the history of Red Cloud and America’s Great Plains, as well as an interpretation of the city’s banking and finance history. The Potter Block’s financial section will be stationed in the restored Farmers & Merchants Bank, and will assist in the community’s efforts to grow as a campus for local and regional events. The Potter Block and Hotel Garber development project is anticipated to generate 10 jobs, as well as $3.5 million in revenue and $6 million in annual economic impacts.
Since Heritage Tourism Development’s inception, community leaders have welcomed 37 new businesses, including a transfer of ownership of the Hometown Market grocery store. Building improvements have either begun or been completed at 18 businesses and historical sites, which include the development of 14 projects in Downtown Red Cloud. The tourism organization has been directly responsible for generating nearly $10 million in revenue since its inception in 2015. The group’s efforts highlight local and regional collaboration that is encouraged in Nebraska’s LCC program, and include partnerships between the City, the Red Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce, the Willa Cather Foundation and the Red Cloud Community Fund.
“Achieving LCC status shows that Nebraska and DED recognize what we already knew: there is great work going on in the Red Cloud community due to focused and strategic collaboration between various community organizations,” said Red Cloud Community Foundation Chair and Heritage Tourism Development Director Jarrod McCartney. “While I’m excited for the practical benefits the City will get from this designation, I am most excited about what this means for Red Cloud’s future. Not only does it make us more competitive on grant applications, this designation also means we’ve been putting in the work to build new opportunities in Red Cloud.”
The City of Red Cloud partnered with the Willa Cather Foundation to secure funding from Nebraska’s Civic and Community Center Financing Fund for historic site restoration. DED administers the fund and will assist in the Foundation’s “Campaign for the Future” program in the rehabilitation of the Farmers & Merchants Bank, Pavelka Farmstead and Willa Cather’s childhood home. The City continues to foster additional historic improvements through Red Cloud’s Historic Preservation Commission.
The Red Cloud Community Fund has prioritized youth and community engagements over the past several years, which included visioning sessions with Red Cloud Junior and Senior High school students in 2019. The sessions identified several community priorities, such as the creation of a vibrant downtown, enhanced recreational opportunities, improved housing and infrastructure, commercial business retention, enhanced educational facilities and instilling a sense of community pride.
The City and the Red Cloud Community Fund are working together to plan a new Recreation Trail. The City has also partnered with the Red Cloud Athletic Association to further develop the Illian Fields baseball and softball complex. Red Cloud leaders successfully collaborated with the Webster County Community Hospital to pursue CARES Act funding.
“A lot of good things are happening in Red Cloud, from a new ballfield concession stand and a walking trail built in phases, to downtown revitalization and new businesses coming to town,” said Mayor Todd Brown. “It’s very exciting to see our town expanding in these ways.”
City officials appreciate the development opportunities that paved the way for Red Cloud’s most recent economic achievement.
“We are proud of the people in our community and all the hard work they contribute from behind the scenes,” said Brown. “Without them, this recognition as a Nebraska LCC would not have been possible.”
“Red Cloud’s transformation is clearly in progress,” said McCartney. “This designation signals that even better things are around the bend, and we’re excited for what’s next.”
For more information about the Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program, contact Kelly Gewecke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 308-627-3151, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/programs/community/lcc/.