Photo (left to right): Milva McGhee, McCook Community Coordinator; Chris Wagner, McCook Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Secretary; Dennis Berry, MEDC President; Andy Long, MEDC Executive Director; Lt. Governor Mike Foley; Mike Gonzales, Mayor; Ashley Rice Gerlach, DED Field Rep; Jerry Calvin, MEDC Board Member; Tim Wiebe, MEDC Board Member; Carol Schlegel, MEDC Board Member
Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley visited McCook yesterday to congratulate local leaders on the City’s recertification in Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program.
“Achieving and keeping up EDCC certification is a big accomplishment,” remarked the Lt. Gov. at an official ceremony. “Today is about acknowledging the many passionate, determined individuals and teams that have worked day-in and day-out to make progress on behalf of their community. Congratulations to McCook for a job well done.”
Led by the Department of Economic Development (DED) and sponsored by the Nebraska Diplomats, the EDCC program is about recognizing communities that have displayed a commitment to economic growth, a readiness to support local business expansion and the ability to cultivate new opportunities and a higher quality of life.
“We all wear the same jersey, and at the end of the day we all contribute to the vision to grow our state,” said DED Director Anthony L. Goins. “Nebraska succeeds when communities like McCook make strides to better themselves and pursue opportunities for their citizens and businesses. Our hats go off to them for this achievement.”
Currently, 40 Nebraska communities including McCook are recognized as members of the EDCC program. After achieving first-time certification, participants are required to recertify once every five years by continuing to meet program standards.
“Our community shares a mentality that progress equals opportunity,” said McCook Economic Development Executive Director Andy Long. “We’re always striving to move forward. I think that participating in the EDCC program has been a guidepost to help us keep pursuing our goals and planning for the next steps. Being recertified today is a validation of the progress we’ve worked so hard to achieve.”
From growing its small business community to enhancing the housing stock, McCook’s proactive efforts as an EDCC continue to exemplify its spirit of progress:
On main street for example, in partnership with Mid-Plains Community College and the Ben Hormel Foundation (dedicated to former community leader Ben Hormel), the Hormel Entrepreneurship Competition has brought business plan writing instruction to 42 startups, adding fuel to an already bustling entrepreneurial ecosystem. The 2019 competition winner, Saltwater Hills Shrimp Company, in fact recently sold its first batch of product to the 2017 winner, Citta Deli. Meanwhile, a collaboration with local banks to obtain gap financing for burgeoning small businesses has supported six new business owners who have since created 42 jobs. A new digital coworking space will provide even more opportunities for up-and-comers to set up shop.
“It’s exciting to see the momentum that continues to build in McCook’s business community as a result of these innovative collaborations,” said Diplomats President Tim O’Brien. “It’s a complement to the terrific strides being made in other areas of local economic development as a result of the city’s forward-thinking leadership and successful partnerships.”
On the housing front, a partnership with local economic developer Southwest Nebraska Community Betterment Corporation has helped the City secure $387,000 in financing for programs involving down payment assistance and owner-occupied rehabilitation. These programs are helping not only to preserve and improve local dwellings, but are enabling new and first-time buyers to achieve their dreams of ownership and establish a bright future in McCook. A second grant program under development will simultaneously address the need for new homes in town by establishing a blueprint for development on the city’s existing infill lots.
Childcare and broadband are two more areas where recent achievements are eliminating barriers to sustained economic growth. Upon hearing reports from multiple businesses about employees struggling with childcare options, the City sprang into action with programs that have since secured close to 60 new childcare slots. Meanwhile, a new local incentive has catalyzed partnerships with telecom companies that will ultimately help bring fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) internet capabilities to every household in the community.
Invoking optimism for the future, the City also received praise for its proactive efforts to combat the impacts of COVID-19 within the business community. A “Digital Façade Improvement” program, for example, can connect local businesses with assistance creating e-revenue streams adapted to a socially-distanced marketplace. Since the beginning, the City has been quick to use radio, social media and other channels to spread awareness about resources like the Paycheck Protection program and SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans that are available to help struggling firms make it through.
“We’re a tight-knit community, and we see each other through,” Long said. “I think anyone who lives here can feel us moving in the right direction and our EDCC recognition bears that out. There’s a lot of excitement for what lies ahead.”
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/