Public-Private Partnerships Lead to Local Business Growth, State Recognition for City of Columbus

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Public-Private Partnerships Lead to Local Business Growth, State Recognition for City of Columbus

City leaders earn ongoing membership in Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Community program.

Site acquisition for business development; ongoing workforce recruitment; and infrastructure improvements have earned the City of Columbus (pop. 23,274) ongoing recognition from the State of Nebraska. The Department of Economic Development (DED) recently announced the City’s recertification in Nebraska’s Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program.

Columbus 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 their preparedness to attract new industries and grow existing businesses. As part of the certification process, qualifying communities must display a well-defined program that actively engages with the existing business community and offers a supportive environment for welcoming new economic development projects. This includes documenting available sites and buildings, local financing and incentive programs and a strategic plan for economic development. The Columbus Economic Council (CEC) received original EDCC certification in 2010. The City of Columbus earned recertification in 2015 and 2020.

Over the past several years, CEC and the Columbus Community Foundation have coordinated ownership of a vacated Walmart property for ongoing development. Following a 10-year idle period with no property development, the CEC acquired management rights from the original owner. Local leaders actively marketed the 12-acre property to prospects and developers looking for available commercial sites. The site was sold in 2018, and is now home to a Bomgaars and a Hampton Inn. In addition, construction of a 60-unit apartment complex, Freddie’s Restaurant, and a 62-unit indoor storage facility is currently underway. The CEC will also develop nearly 55 acres for light industry growth and energy infrastructure, with plans for completion later this year.

“Growth within Nebraska’s communities is often determined by leadership from economic developers as well as additional supportive organizations with the same end goal,” said Nebraska Diplomats President Dan Duncan. “This type of collaboration in Columbus turned a once-vacant site into new opportunities for a number of businesses. Continued efforts to market an additional 48,000 square feet on the property shows the City’s preparedness for new growth, which is strongly encouraged in our EDCC program.”

Local leaders continue to focus on business and industry recruitment, which includes workforce development for several new divisions at Columbus Community Hospital, including a daycare and specialty services. The community is also committed to infrastructure improvements to benefit area youth. Completion of a new high school and remodeled middle school recently provided added space for students in local grade schools.

CEC Co-Chair and Loup Power District Vice President of Corporate Services, Todd J. Duren, attributed the community’s economic growth to strong local relationships between the CEC, the City and Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. Ongoing collaboration with Central Community College, Nebraska Public Power District, Platte County, Northeast Nebraska Economic Development, Nebraska Business Development Center and the State of Nebraska highlights a number of the community’s regional and state partners.

“Columbus is a city with a lot to offer,” Duren said. “Our community continues to provide new opportunities for our retail and industrial industries, and is also a wonderful place for our residents to call home.”

For additional 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/.