Photo: Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and Ashley Rice-Gerlach (DED) presented Jen McKeone (Cozad Development Corporation) and members of the City of Cozad and Cozad Development Corporation Board of Directors with their EDCC Recertification certificate.
City recognized for ongoing membership in Economic Development Certified Community program
The City of Cozad (pop. 3,787) has earned ongoing recognition from the State of Nebraska for recent business and housing development efforts. This week, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and the Department of Economic Development (DED) honored local leaders for Cozad’s continued membership in Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program. DED Southwest Nebraska Business Development Consultant, Ashley Rice-Gerlach, joined the Lt. Gov. for a special presentation to the community on Tuesday, June 1.
Cozad is one of 40 Nebraska communities to earn EDCC status in the 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 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, developing local financing and incentive programs and creating ongoing strategic planning for economic growth. The community received original EDCC certification in 2007 and earned program recertification in 2010, 2016 and 2021.
Ongoing local investments have spurred downtown revitalization over the past five years, resulting in fewer empty storefronts through additions to Cozad’s retail and service industries. New downtown retailers include home décor store Rustic and Red, Double L Embroidery, Dawson Home, 222 Hardware, Mode Boutique and Henry’s New and Used Firearms. Recently added downtown service businesses include Cozad Eye Care, Davis Law, Salon Meraki and the Cut Barn.
“Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Communities are known for their creative efforts to increase economic opportunities, which also show their commitment to quality of life in their regions,” Lt. Gov. Foley said. “As one of our state’s first EDCCs, Cozad has been known for its leadership in economic development and continues to inspire growth in south central Nebraska.”
The Meridian Tap House, 242 House, The Well Haus and the Fox Theater highlight additional economic investments designed to breathe new life into downtown Cozad. The City’s “Music Mondays” program revitalized a downtown green space once occupied by the Rialto Theatre. The community recently embraced several initiatives to showcase talented local artists who created art palette icons, angel wings and barn quilts in unique locations across the city.
The Cozad Development Corporation (CDC) and the City of Cozad prioritized efforts to improve housing through the creation of a four-home subdivision in northeast Cozad. Further collaboration between the CDC, the City and the Cozad Housing Authority resulted in a $700,000 grant from the State of Nebraska’s Rural Workforce Housing Fund to create new housing projects in the community.
“Strong leaders in Nebraska’s EDCCs value project partnerships that often result in great success stories in their business and housing communities,” said Nebraska Diplomats President Tim O’Brien. “These unique development efforts are often inspired by the desire to create opportunities for generations to come, and the Nebraska Diplomats appreciate Cozad’s leadership as an EDCC for the past 14 years.”
Recent business and housing developments have created a new generation of leaders in Cozad. Mayor Marcus Kloepping is among Cozad’s young leadership.
“We are fortunate to have many exciting developments in Cozad that have encouraged those originally from this area to move back home,” Mayor Kloepping said. “These young people are really enjoying everything this town has to offer. From splash pads to winter wonderland parades, there is something happening all the time for our young families.”
More than $15 million in new economic development projects have taken place over the past five years, including a new Cobblestone Inn and Suites Hotel, Armor Insurance Agency, Casey’s Travel Center, Black Hills Energy, Channel Seed, Spotanski Construction, Outlaw Garden Products and Eric Nelson Trucking. Recent company expansions include the Paulsen Inc. headquarters, Pioneer Seed, Colorado Biolabs and doubling the size of the Meadowlark Point assisted living facility.
CDC Executive Director Jen McKeone says that everywhere she travels in Nebraska, people share a story about a recent visit to Cozad and how impressed they are.
“It makes me very proud of the businesses we have and how they are putting us on the map,” McKeone said. “More than 10 years ago Cozad lost its largest employer, and people thought we would wither up and blow away. Instead, we came back stronger than ever with a new sense of community pride and a new appreciation for every business that calls Cozad home.”
For more 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/