While working to evaluate Cozad’s strengths and weaknesses, the city officials identified the downtown district as needing many improvements. Buildings were showing age and business/building owners were in need of financial assistance to address these issues. City officials knew that the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, administered through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development could respond to these needs.
The City, Cozad Chamber of Commerce, and Cozad Development Corporation (CDC) enlisted the assistance of Dawson Area Development to undertake this process. All entities worked together to complete the application and develop a presentation. Community needs were prioritized and potential solutions identified through the CDBG program.
Cozad was subsequently awarded $30,000 in June 2008 for Phase-I of a project targeting downtown revitalization. In April 2009 the City was awarded $250,000 in CDBG funding for the implementation of Phase-II. To meet the CDBG funding match, the City, CDC, and Chamber provided funding and in-kind contributions were made by other entities.
While the project is not yet complete, Cozad is definitely enjoying the positive effects of the venture. The downtown district’s appearance has already improved dramatically, and along with it a new attitude has developed. Business owners hope to benefit from reduced heating/air costs as a result of the installation of more energy efficient units and thermal paned windows. Sidewalk repairs will provide a more stable and safe environment for consumers.
The CDBG project has been a total community effort from the development of the application to the implementation process. Business owners, community leaders and citizens alike contributed feedback and attended community meetings. While Cozad learned that it would lose its largest employer, everyone’s investment in the community has provided reassurance that the community will make it through the tough time.