Photo (left to right): Rick Melcher, Aurora city administrator; Mark Dunn, city council member; Mayor Marlin Seeman; Lt. Governor Mike Foley; Kelsey Bergen, executive director of Aurora Development Corporation; Kirk Penner, Aurora Development Corporation president; Kurt Johnson, Aurora Development Corporation board member.
State of Nebraska supports city’s ongoing work as an Economic Development Certified Community.
Strategic planning in the City of Aurora (pop. 4,497) has expanded broadband capability, achieved housing and infrastructure development and earned recognition from the State of Nebraska. Last week, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley celebrated the community’s continued membership in Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program. Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) Central Nebraska Business Development Consultant, Kelly Gewecke, joined the Lt. Gov. for a special presentation to City leaders on Thursday, September 9.
Aurora 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 EDCC program in 2005 to recognize communities for preparedness to attract new industries and grow existing businesses. As part of the certification process, qualifying cities and villages must identify a well-defined program that actively engages with their existing business community to offer a supportive environment for welcoming new economic development projects. This includes documenting available sites and buildings, developing local financing and incentives programs and creating ongoing strategic planning for economic growth. Aurora received original EDCC certification in April 2016 and earned program recertification in August 2021.
Local leaders have helped to develop 26 new or expanding businesses in high-visibility sections of Aurora over the past two years, including around the city square, along Highways 14 and 34 and on property near Interstate 80.
“Supporting a welcoming, vibrant business community remains a cornerstone for cities in Nebraska’s EDCC program, and Aurora has shown great leadership in creating opportunities for growth,” said Lt. Gov. Foley. “Developing new and expanding businesses often takes years of strategic planning, which comes to fruition through the collaboration of local, regional and state partners.”
Aurora Housing Development Corporation recently established a $2 million Revolving Loan Fund to create housing in Aurora and across Hamilton County, with support from a $1 million Rural Workforce Housing grant from DED and a $250,000 matching grant from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA). The collaborative efforts will result in at least eight single family homes, eight town homes and 32 housing lots for the first phase of development.
“As our community celebrates 150 years, strong partnerships continue to build Aurora,” said Mayor Marlin Seeman. “Our City Council appreciates the opportunity to work with the Aurora Development Corporation, Aurora Chamber of Commerce, Aurora Housing Development Corporation, Hamilton Recreation and Hamilton Community Foundation to move our community forward.”
Developments in local infrastructure compliment efforts to build workforce and quality of life improvements in Aurora. The City Council recently increased the capacity of the Wastewater Treatment Facility to double the amount of processed wastewater. The improvements are part of ongoing goals to attract industrial development and additional economic growth near I-80. Improvements to the south sanitary sewer interceptor’s main line will also pave the way for development near the interstate and on Aurora’s south corridor. In addition, Hamilton Telecommunications recently received funds from the Nebraska Broadband Grant Program to expand fiber internet into Merrick County, further strengthening the region for development.
Aurora Development Corporation utilized the framework from a recent statewide strategic plan for economic development — Blueprint Nebraska — to complete its 2021 Strategic Plan. Executive Director Kelsey Bergen said local leaders’ loyalty to the community and efforts to create economic opportunities have fostered Aurora’s work in the EDCC program.
“Aurora has always been a progressive community,” Bergen said. “Continuing to participate in the EDCC program helps our residents see our commitment to growing the community, and shows individuals and businesses outside our area that we are prepared for development. We are excited to continue collaborative work in building our City and region.”
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/.