Clarkson, the “Center of Czechland”, in Colfax County is a shining example of a “little community that could.” Small (pop. 685 according to 2000 Census) but mighty, Clarkson has aggressively pursued a number of economic projects since 1995, including expansion of the premier Bluebird Nursery, the largest perennial grower in the Midwest, construction of a new City Park concession stand, startup of the Clarkson Community Opera House, Inc., an organization to oversee maintenance and upkeep of the historic 1913 Clarkson Opera House, a new medical clinic facility, and a 26,000-sq.-ft. addition to Clarkson Public Schools.
The community’s most recent endeavor involved receipt of $250,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding (CDBG) in the public works category to first demolish a dilapidated house, thereby clearing the way for a new $650,000 10,000-sq. ft. fire hall in its place.
The original fire hall, built when fire trucks were much smaller, was very cramped with little room for equipment and energy inefficient. Any training classes or activities had to be held outdoors due to the lack of room.
The Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District helped coordinate and tabulate an income survey of Clarkson to determine if the community’s predominant population would qualify it for CDBG funding. Once survey information was gathered, NENEDD helped the fire department formulate an action plan and gave it ideas for strengthening the plan. Fire personnel then toured other fire stations for actual design ideas. The Clarkson Fire Foundation made a sizeable donation before an application was submitted for CDBG funding. Other donations from citizens and businesses were used to replace tiling with carpeting in the meeting room, and to provide a fully equipped kitchen. The fire hall, dedicated in February 2009, now houses the 44-member volunteer fire department and rescue squad staffed by 23 EMTs, nine first responders, and a paramedic.
In addition to Bluebird Nursery and the Opera House, Clarkson is home to a historical museum, Memorial and Clarkson City parks, Bohemian National Garden, Clarkson Bakery, which features Czech-made baked goods, and Toman City Market, which produces specialty sausages, bacon, and wieners.