Photo: Mayor Mitch Robinson (third from left) and City staff/officials accept LCC recognition on behalf of the City of Ft. Calhoun.
City recognized as ongoing member of Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community Program.
The city of Ft. Calhoun (Pop. 908), home to a groundbreaking solar partnership with Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), has earned ongoing recognition from the State of Nebraska for recent economic growth. The Department of Economic Development (DED) this week announced the City’s recertification in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. DED Southeast Nebraska Business Development Consultant, Dave Honz, honored local leaders during a special presentation on March 21.
Ft. Calhoun is one of 32 communities to have earned status in the LCC program. 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. The City qualified for its first LCC designation in December 2016, and achieved recertification in January of this year.
Ft. Calhoun joined Nebraska’s solar community in 2020 following the completion of a 5-megawatt facility in rural Washington County. The project was established by City leaders and OPPD, and resulted in the construction of 17,500 solar panels. Nearly 900 local customers currently utilize the solar array, which was the first of its kind in Nebraska.
Voters recently reinstated Ft. Calhoun’s city sale-and-use tax following a 2016 vote to increase the community’s sales tax by 1.5 percent. Since its inception, the program has preserved nearly 10 percent of generated revenue for annual road and street projects. The fund also assists in projects focused on community and economic development, including recreation and tourism activities.
The city celebrated the addition of the Adams Street Plaza splash pad and community gathering park in 2021. A group of 10 ambitious local mothers led fundraising efforts for the splash pad and park project, which includes a toddler play area, a walking trail, shade shelter and landscaping, and infrastructure for future development. The City works consistently with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Fort Atkinson State Park Steering Committee on additional recreational improvement efforts.
Local leaders say Nebraska’s LCC program helped initiate Ft. Calhoun’s efforts to plan strategically for economic progress.
“Our residents appreciate living in a small town, but also understand that in order to have a thriving community, we must continue to be progressive in our efforts to support tourism, downtown growth and community enhancement projects,” said Ft. Calhoun Community Coordinator Deb Sutherland. “Becoming an LCC has been a rewarding process and will help us in our future endeavors.”
The Ft. Calhoun Summerfest attracts hundreds of visitors to its annual craft and vendor event, and encourages community volunteerism. Sutherland and her team continue to focus on drawing former students back to the region through the revitalization of Fort Calhoun’s Alumni Foundation.
“Recent planning efforts envisioning Ft. Calhoun’s further development have encouraged the community to focus on growing future generations in Washington County,” said LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke. “As development in the community continues to evolve, the State of Nebraska looks forward to learning about what’s next for this innovative and philanthropic community.”
Ft. Calhoun welcomed three new businesses in 2021, including a Family Dollar store, Jeda’s Pizza restaurant and the Northern Lights venue hall. DED works consistently with Nebraska LCCs to visit with new and existing businesses annually, in order to assist communities with further opportunities for growth.
For more information about the LCC Program, contact Kelly Gewecke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 308-627-3151, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/programs/community/lcc/.