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Photo (left to right): Scottsbluff Councilmember Angela Scanlan; Councilmember Jordan Colwell; Economic Development Director Starr Lehl; Mayor Jeannie McKerrigan; DED Field Representative Brittany Hardin; Councilmember Selena Lerma; Councilmember Nathan Green; City Manager Dustin Rief.

 

City recognized as Economic Development Certified Community for business, housing expansions.

More than $1 million in housing investments and collaborative business expansions are part of long-term goals in the city of Scottsbluff (pop. 14,737) to create regional economic growth. This week, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) honored Scottsbluff officials for their ongoing leadership as part of Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program. The City’s third recertification in just over a decade recognizes extensive growth in Scottsbluff and Scotts Bluff County spurred by new businesses, housing and educational partnerships. DED Western Nebraska Business Development Consultant and Gov. Pete Ricketts’ West Central Director, Brittany Hardin, honored local leaders during a special presentation on September 20.

Scottsbluff is one of 40 Nebraska communities to earn status in the EDCC program, sponsored by the Nebraska Diplomats and administered by DED. State officials established the program in 2005 to recognize communities for preparedness to attract new industries and grow existing businesses. As part of the certification process, qualifying cities and villages must identify a well-defined program that engages with their existing business community to provide a supportive environment for new economic development projects. This includes documenting available sites and buildings, developing local financing and incentive programs and creating ongoing strategic planning for economic growth. Scottsbluff received its original EDCC certification in 2007 and earned program recertifications in 2010, 2015 and 2021.

Evolving economic partnerships between western Nebraska communities continue to emphasize regional development efforts. Collaborative investments from the Cities of Scottsbluff and Gering, and DED, assisted in sheet metal manufacturer Prime Metals’ $2.8 million business startup project in Gering. The City of Scottsbluff spearheaded project recruitment efforts by providing $1.5 million in funding assistance from its Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (LB840), bringing more than 70 jobs to the area. While LB840 allows Nebraska cities and villages to collect local tax dollars for economic development, the City of Scottsbluff continues to utilize their fund to include assistance for regional projects. The City provided $750,000 in LB840 funding to assist Gering hydraulic coupling manufacturer CS Precision Manufacturing, Inc., with the expansion of their facility and the addition of up to 36 new jobs.

The City of Scottsbluff’s Tax Increment Financing program encourages the redevelopment of blighted and substandard properties. Recently completed redevelopment projects include Elite Health Center, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Reganis Auto Center, Essential Fuels and Scooters Coffee.

“As development projects in the city of Scottsbluff take shape, we appreciate the continued chance to grow through Nebraska’s EDCC program,” said Mayor Jeanne McKerrigan. “This program connects our dynamic local developers to regional and state opportunities, which result in strong partnerships within Nebraska’s economic development community.”

The City recently received a $732,000 Owner Occupied Rehabilitation Grant, administered by DED, to be used for renovating homes within the Scottsbluff city limits and available to income qualified homeowners. The City committed $350,000 in LB840 funds into a regional housing initiative, along with other communities, and a grant from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA). The investments will provide a financial match for DED’s Rural Workforce Housing Fund, which is now part of a $1.9 million effort to assist developers and contractors with workforce housing developments.

“As regional economic leaders, Scottsbluff developers have created a platform for western Nebraska employers to build business and housing development opportunities,” said Nebraska Diplomats President Tim O’Brien. “Economic incentives and workforce housing initiatives are both important tools in helping companies grow, and are often created by progressive, local innovators within our EDCC program.”

The City of Scottsbluff enacted its East Overland Façade Improvement Grant program in 2018, which has provided funding for residential and commercial façade improvements along the East Overland Corridor. The program’s eligible activities through Scottsbluff’s Community Redevelopment Authority included demolition, parking lot repairs, and updated signage and landscaping, all part of improving the curb appeal of many businesses along the corridor.

Over the past five years, area leaders have worked creatively to enhance western Nebraska’s quality of life. The City and Downtown Scottsbluff Association created the Bands on Broadway summer concert series in 2019, held annually in the City’s 18th Street Plaza. This year, Scottsbluff qualified for assistance from DED’s Civic and Community Center Financing Fund to create plans for additional development in the downtown plaza.

Local partnerships between the Scottsbluff-Gering Chamber of Commerce, the Oregon Trail Community Foundation, Midwest Theater and Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC) have created additional opportunities for cultural development.

Scottsbluff continues its support for the Heartland Expressway Association. The Expressway is a federally designated, high priority corridor that will provide multilane, divided highway access between Rapid City, South Dakota, and Denver, Colorado. Completion of the project will bring long-term economic development throughout the corridor and make available sites more attractive to developers. The Heartland Expressway is an integral part of the Ports to Plains Alliance Corridor linking Canada and Mexico.

Collaborative efforts to showcase western Nebraska’s historic landscape have landed several recent film projects; since 2017, the Scottsbluff area has served as a location for two movies and a reality television series. Rural Scotts Bluff County served as the backdrop for a portion of the Coen Brothers’ 2017 movie, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and the Academy Award winning Nomadland in 2020. The 2017 production brought in nearly $3 million to the Scottsbluff area from hotel stays, additional law enforcement and catering services. Discovery Channel producers have chosen Scottsbluff on more than one occasion to film the network’s reality show, Street Outlaws.

Scottsbluff High School is a Wall-to-Wall Career Academy School offering six academies and 26 career pathways through an ongoing partnership with WNCC. Students are eligible for dual credit classes, many of which earn associates degrees at the time of high school graduation. WNCC provides transportation for high school students enrolled in campus classrooms. Internships offered by local businesses to high school students encourage professional relationships and job skill development in the community, showcasing the benefits of staying in the community after graduation and growing a much needed workforce.

“Connecting our students with Scottsbluff-area employers is the first step to incentivizing young people build their careers here at home,” said City of Scottsbluff Economic Development Director Starr Lehl. “By doing so, our local leaders can build a talented workforce by fostering strong relationships, which are at the heart of our community’s economic success. We are excited to watch our development opportunities evolve for Nebraska’s next generation and beyond.”

For more 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/.