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Photo: Mayor David A. Bauer and Lori Shaal.

State of Nebraska recertifies city as Economic Development Certified Community. 

Support for downtown development and efforts to create new housing in the city of Crete (pop. 7,247) have led to recognition from the State of Nebraska. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) this week announced Crete’s recertification in the Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program. DED Business Relations representative and Nebraska Diplomats Executive Director, Lori Shaal, honored local leaders during a special presentation on September 21.

Crete is one of 40 Nebraska communities to earn status in the EDCC 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 expand existing businesses. As part of the certification process, qualifying cities and villages must identify a well-defined program that engages with their existing business community to offer a supportive environment for economic growth. This includes documenting available sites and buildings, developing local financing and incentive programs and creating ongoing strategic planning. The City of Crete received its original EDCC certification in 2016, and earned program recertification in 2021.

Since Crete’s previous certification, the community has celebrated several new and expanding business projects, including the completion of an 80-room Fairfield Inn and Suites. City leaders are also in the process of opening five new subdivisions, which has created more housing opportunities in the last five years than in the previous 15 years combined. The City recently partnered with local business leaders to implement a private, non-profit company, which served as a successful applicant for assistance from DED’s Rural Workforce Housing Fund. This success has generated even more interest from local businesses, as well as external development interest in workforce housing. City officials say the move will likely pave the way for construction of a sixth subdivision.

“It is an honor to be named one of Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Communities,” said downtown business owner Tom Sorensen. “This recognition shows great commitment from community leaders to set some goals and improve our quality of life. We are fortunate to be growing, and this acknowledgement confirms that we are growing in the right way.

The City was one of five communities to qualify for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for Downtown Revitalization (DTR) from DED. The $445,000 investment modernized buildings in Crete’s Downtown Historic District. The City is currently utilizing a second DTR grant with increased participation from local business owners.

“I am personally gratified by the interest and participation by our community in our projects,” said Mayor David A. Bauer. “As a fellow downtown business owner, I am amazed by the improvements taken on by many business property owners who are on board with our DTR projects. I don’t believe any of this would have been possible without our membership in Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Community program.”

“Nebraska leaders who are focused on attracting development opportunities in their regions understand that growth depends on the overall culture of their business community,” said Nebraska Diplomats President Tim O’Brien. “The City’s initial $500,000 investment in the downtown area highlights overall efforts to show that Crete is open for business, which is an essential part of thriving as an EDCC.”

Crete leaders recently formed an innovative partnership with Crete Public Schools on recreation programs to offer expanded school programming. The collaboratively led project focuses on the transition from early childhood development to in-school programming opportunities.

Voters recently approved a bond issue for a new municipal library, which was completed through assistance from more than $3 million in local donations. In addition, the City committed $2 million to implement a redevelopment and expansion program for Crete’s parks, designed to retain and attract young families to the community.

Local business leaders said they appreciate recreational investments in their growing community and value regional and state relationships formed within Nebraska’s EDCCs. Crete Area Medical Center CEO Stephanie Boldt said earning certification and recertification has been an example of the City’s work in preparing for new development.

“Crete’s commitment to growth is reinforced by being an Economic Development Certified Community,” Boldt said. “With this certification and ongoing commitment from the City of Crete, the community will continue to be a Community in Motion. This is a great accomplishment.”

“Being an EDCC opens doors and brings a focus to the community that I don’t think can be matched otherwise,” said Crete City Administrator Tom Ourada. “The rate at which our community is growing and improving is accelerating day by day. I think we can directly attribute this to our certification and the ongoing efforts to remain a part of this important program.”

For more information on the Economic Development Certified Community Program, contact Ashley Rice-Gerlach at 308-655-0919 or ashley.gerlach@nebraska.gov, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/economic-development-certified-community-edcc/.