Photo (left to right): Gregory Ohlsen, Utica Board; Jodi Micek, Utica Board; Jonathan Jank, Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership director; Jim Swanson, Utica Board Chairman; Nathan Baack, Utica Board; Sharon Powell, Utica Board.
Department of Economic Development Honors Utica as a Leadership Certified Community
Downtown façade improvements and upgraded infrastructure in the village of Utica (pop. 922) over the past five years have resulted in continued recognition from the State of Nebraska. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) recently announced the Village’s recertification as members of the State’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. DED Central Nebraska Business Development Consultant and LCC Program Director Kelly Gewecke honored Village officials during a special presentation on Monday, August 2.
Utica is one of 30 Nebraska communities to qualify for DED’s LCC program, created in 2011 to help municipalities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Certified communities must demonstrate an understanding for and preparedness in strategic planning, and display readiness in technological development to help new and existing businesses grow. Qualifying LCC’s earn status in the program for five years, and are required to maintain community websites to market local development, which may include information on available sites and buildings and regional employment opportunities. The Village of Utica earned LCC designation in March 2016, and was recertified in July 2021.
Local leaders have spearheaded downtown revitalization efforts since Utica’s original LCC designation five years ago. Stakeholder meetings, beginning in 2017, helped determine a strategy for façade improvements with assistance from the Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership (SCCDP) and the Utica Foundation. Project efforts were completed with help from local and state-administered funding, including a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) awarded by DED. The CDBG Public Works program bolstered downtown street and sidewalk improvements with a $146,250 investment in the project, which was also completed with the help of grassroots fundraising efforts.
“Public-private partnerships often provide a strong support system for Nebraska’s LCC’s, where local leaders understand the importance of a community’s ‘buy-in’ when it comes to economic development,” said LCC Program Director Kelly Gewecke. “Great leadership played an important role in Utica’s recertification efforts, and was complemented by assistance from Village officials, the Utica Foundation and the SCCDP team.”
“The past five years of successful community and economic development efforts in Utica have been achieved through the work of dedicated citizens and community leaders,” said SCCDP President & CEO Jonathan Jank. “The next five years will bring further growth and development to Utica. We are confident that local businesses, schools, churches, civic organizations and engaged residents will continue working together for the betterment of the community.”
The Village of Utica has invested in major infrastructure improvements of utilities, roads, parks and sidewalks to enhance quality of life for its community members. Utica’s Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (LB 840), which authorizes cities and villages to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development, has helped support area business expansions. The Village has also utilized Tax Increment Financing (TIF), which helps fund development efforts in designated blighted and substandard areas.
“Utica citizens should be very proud of the community’s accomplishments over the last five years. We are excited to see that the progress we have made over that time has led us to become recertified as a Leadership Certified Community,” said Jim Swanson, Chairperson for the Utica Village Trustees. “Thanks to the Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership for their leadership to guide us through the recertification process.”
For additional information about the Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program, contact Kelly Gewecke at Kelly.firstname.lastname@example.org or 308-627-3151, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/leadership-certified-community/.