Last Thursday, the Nebraska Diplomats hosted Gov. Pete Ricketts, Department of Economic Development Director Courtney Dentlinger and area business leaders at the organization’s second regional economic celebration in 2017. The event in Kearney was one of five Diplomats-sponsored regional conferences this year, planned in place of the organization’s annual Business and Industry Day in May and Passport Weekend in September. In June, the Diplomats hosted its first regional economic celebration in Norfolk; additional events will be held in Scottsbluff, Lincoln and Omaha later this year.

This year’s events provide a unique opportunity for regional leaders to share economic strategies and success stories with the Nebraska Diplomats and Department of Economic Development (DED).

“Nebraska is home to a unique set of industries and businesses in every corner of our state, and hosting regional events is an additional way to celebrate Nebraska’s economic diversity,” said Nebraska Diplomats President, Jane McDaniel. “The event in Kearney encouraged collaboration between local and state economic leaders to grow new workforce and housing strategies, which continue to be top economic development priorities for communities in 2017.”

The Economic Development Council of Buffalo County assisted in planning the discussion on regional workforce housing and was facilitated by local business leader Brenda Jensen, of Miller and Associates Consulting Engineers. Members of DED’s housing team also participated in the panel discussion.

“As Buffalo County business leaders, elected officials and community supporters continue to work on ways to grow our housing market, it’s important to learn about how the State of Nebraska can assist in this process,” said Darren Robinson, Executive Director of Buffalo County’s Economic Development Council. “The discussion provided an opportunity to build local knowledge about housing strategies that have worked in other Nebraska communities, and emphasized our need to develop infrastructure to grow our workforce.”

The 2017 regional events also encourage the facilitation of ongoing relationships between businesses, the Diplomats and DED, which have had room to grow through state-based programs such as the Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program.

Thirty-nine Nebraska communities have qualified for the EDCC program, which is sponsored by the Nebraska Diplomats and administered by DED. Qualifying communities in the central Nebraska region include Albion, Cozad, Elwood, Gothenburg, Grand Island, Hastings, Holdrege, Kearney, Lexington and York. Qualifying communities must identify a well-defined economic development program that actively engages the existing business community that offers a supportive environment for welcoming new economic development projects.

“Events like this offer us a great opportunity to recognize progressive communities, business owners, and regional leaders who are setting a strong example for economic growth in the state,” said Director Courtney Dentlinger.

In 2017, the Nebraska Diplomats are honoring regional businesses, communities and diplomats in five regions across the state. This year’s central region businesses of the year include Chief Industries, Inc., in Grand Island and Mac’s Creek Vineyards and Winery in Lexington.

Chief Industries has been in business since 1954 and currently employs 1300 people with corporate offices in Grand Island and divisions and subsidiaries around the world. The company manufactures agricultural and construction products, commercial construction and factory built homes. Since 2001, the McFarland family has operated Mac’s Creek Vineyards and Winery near Lexington. The family also owns and operates Mac’s Creek Wine Bar in Kearney.

In addition, the Diplomats honored the City of Broken Bow as the central region’s “Community of the Year.” Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse received the region’s “Diplomat of the Year” award.

Robinson said regional diplomats appreciate the opportunity to celebrate regional economic development achievements in central Nebraska.

“Kearney was fortunate to host the Nebraska Diplomats Regional Economic event with representatives participating from all across central Nebraska,” Robinson said. “The Nebraska Diplomats organization is responsible for assisting statewide efforts in improving Nebraska as a pro-business state.”