Photo: downtown Beatrice
City earns recertification in State’s Economic Development Certified Community Program.
The City of Beatrice (pop. 12,266) has earned continued recognition in the State of Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program for recent growth in capital investments, business expansion projects and housing developments. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) announced the community’s second recertification in the EDCC program on March 16 during a special presentation by Lt. Governor Mike Foley.
Beatrice is one of 40 Nebraska communities to earn EDCC status in the program, which is sponsored by the Nebraska Diplomats and administered by DED. State officials established the program in 2005 to recognize communities for their preparedness to attract new industries and grow existing businesses. As part of the certification process, qualifying communities must identify a well-defined program that actively engages with their existing business community and offers a supportive environment for welcoming new economic development projects. This includes documenting available sites and buildings, local financing and incentive programs and a strategic plan for economic development. The City of Beatrice earned its original EDCC certification in 2009, and was re-certified in 2014 and 2020.
The City’s ongoing partnership with the county economic development organization, Gage Area Growth Enterprise (NGage), has attracted a number of business opportunities over the past several years. Local leaders generated $20 million in capital investments through the recruitment of two new primary businesses to the community, including animal breeding company Hendrix Genetics and food manufacturer Landmark Snacks. Since its opening in 2016, Landmark Snacks has invested $6 million and 100 jobs in the Beatrice facility.
New ownership of a local business, Precise Manufacturing, resulted in additional job opportunities within the community. The company increased its workforce by 50 percent following a 2018 acquisition by Lincoln-based manufacturer IntoMetal.
Successful public-private partnerships resulted in Exmark’s $12 million, 80,000 square foot expansion project in 2018. The lawn and landscape equipment manufacturing company utilized several economic development programs to complete the project, including local Tax Increment Financing (TIF), the Site and Building Development Fund and the state’s current business incentive program, Nebraska Advantage. In addition, local manufacturing company Neapco Components qualified for Nebraska Advantage for ongoing investments in the Beatrice facility. Over the past five years, the company has invested more than $10 million in building and equipment updates.
“Strong leadership generated within NGage and the City continues to spur innovative opportunities for growth in Beatrice, and demonstrates success created by local economic partnerships,” said Lt. Governor Foley. “Ongoing strategic planning between both groups highlights this region’s preparedness for development, which is an important component of the EDCC program.”
Local leaders continue their efforts to fulfill a demand for new housing after the creation of nearly 450 new jobs offered by new primary and non-primary businesses. The community has consistently drawn on the results of a 2016 housing study to bolster housing opportunities in the community. In 2018, the City celebrated the completion of 48 new homes and 29 multi-family units. Plans to develop 100 additional units are currently underway.
NGage and the City of Beatrice facilitated a student-led housing partnership, which resulted in the completion of a home in the City’s Covered Bridge development area. The partnership, led by Brett Wells Construction and Beatrice High School, gave 10 local students hands-on experience in blueprint design, drywall, framing and finishing work.
“As economic developers continue to recognize and fulfill ongoing housing demands, business owners are also building a new generation of leaders in the City of Beatrice,” said Nebraska Diplomats President Dan Duncan. “Engaging young talent in development projects creates opportunities for growth and encourages them to invest in their community, which continues to instill creativity within state’s EDCC program.”
Several local contractors completed additional housing development sites within the past five years, which focused on multi-use housing, senior living and tiny homes projects. In 2018, the City and four additional southeast Nebraska communities received a $639,000 Rural Workforce Housing grant from DED for a collective partnership in ongoing efforts to create new housing units in the region.
Area investors recently renovated the Beatrice Mercantile Building, once threatened by demolition, into a site for a number of new hospitality and retail businesses. Stone Hollow Brewing, Smoke & Fire Cigars, Gorgeous Hanger Boutique, Blush Ceramic Studio and The Mechanical Room speakeasy are among the businesses that established Nebraska’s first indoor entertainment district.
Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth says the community’s original EDCC certification more than a decade ago has fostered unique development opportunities, as well as national recognition. In 2018, Site Selection Magazine ranked Beatrice among the country’s top micropolitan communities with completed economic development projects. Beatrice earned the number one micropolitan ranking in Nebraska and placed 14th in the nation.
“The designation that Beatrice received really opens the doors to improving our community,” Mayor Wirth said. “Not only does the EDCC program help us focus on community and economic development planning, it also allows us to be better prepared when applying for funding resources. The process positions our community to be proactive, preparing for future growth.”
For additional information on the Economic Development Certified Community program, contact Ashley Rice-Gerlach at 308-655-0919 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/economic-development-certified-community-edcc/.