Otoe County has earned a designation as a state Enterprise Zone. The designation was announced by Eric Zeece, Deputy Director & Chief Performance Officer, Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED), during Tuesday morning’s Otoe County Commissioners meeting.
“We congratulate Otoe County on the hard work that went into creating the development plan. This will be a great opportunity to encourage private investment in the area,” said Eric Zeece.
“The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) is committed to long-term efforts to spur economic development growth in the area and excited by the award of the enterprise zone designation,” said Tim O’Brien, OPPD Economic Development Manager. “Additionally, one of the designated areas is along the Arbor Rail Line, which has great potential for new businesses as there are few areas in the Midwest with rail access to both Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The designation provides a significant opportunity to work toward developing improvements and initiatives for the community and businesses. We appreciate working with Otoe County, the City of Nebraska City, and Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corporation on this and look forward to continued efforts.”
“The Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corporation (NCAEDC) is excited about the opportunity this designation provides. We look forward to working with DED, OPPD and our City and County to leverage this designation into true economic development,” said Chuck Wiiest, President, NCAEDC.
The Nebraska Enterprise Zone Act allows for five zones designated statewide. Once a zone is awarded it will remain in effect for ten years. Enterprise Zones are defined as “economically distressed” areas with concentrations of high unemployment, poverty, and declining populations. The goal in designating Enterprise Zones is to work with those counties or communities that have specifically identified distressed areas and outlined detailed plans with goals and objectives to redevelop them.
Otoe County officials developed a plan that includes goals, objectives, and descriptions of current and prospective actions to encourage private investment in the area. They specified job training for new and existing businesses in the zone and for displaced worker residents; technical assistance for businesses in the zone, including management training, engineering and technology assistance, and business plan preparation; measures for ensuring the safety of businesses and employees in the zone; steps for marketing the zone to new and existing businesses for locations and/or expansions; specific infrastructure investments to be made to stimulate economic growth and development; and outlined organizational to be created and processes to pursue to stimulate economic development.
The Otoe County Enterprise Zone spans six areas with a focus on industrial, commercial and residential improvements and opportunities. Further development of the 56.4-mile-long Arbor Rail Line is expected to generate greater industrial growth potential given that there are few industrial sites in Nebraska with ready rail access, especially in southeast Nebraska.
Additional competitive advantages include the County’s ready access to major transportation routes and its strategic geographic location between two metropolitan areas where attracting key workforce is concerned.
Nebraska City is located along four-lane U.S. Highway 2 that connects to Lincoln and Interstate 80 (45 miles to the west) and Interstate 29 (five miles to the east. The two-lane U.S. Highway 75 connects to Omaha 50 miles to the north, and I-29 (less than three miles from Nebraska City) connects to Omaha and Council Bluffs 45 miles to the north, and Kansas City 145 miles to the south.
Partners in the effort include DED, OPPD, the Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corporation, City of Nebraska City and Otoe County.