Photo (left to right): Kandra Kinne, Cambridge City Clerk; Melissa Jackson, Director, Cambridge Economic Development; Ashley Rice-Gerlach, DED Business Development Consultant; David Gunderson, Mayor.
Cambridge recognized as Leadership Certified Community for diversity and innovation in economic development.
Evolving local incentives designed to assist business and homeowners in the City of Cambridge (pop. 1,026) have resulted in ongoing recognition from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED). DED Business Development Consultant Ashley Rice-Gerlach announced the City’s most recent designation in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program a during a special presentation in Cambridge on Monday, October 5.
Cambridge is one of 28 Nebraska communities to qualify for DED’s LCC program, created in 2011 to help villages and municipalities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Certified communities must demonstrate an understanding for and preparedness in strategic planning, and must 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. DED recognized the City of Cambridge as an LCC in 2015, and recertified the community’s program status in 2020.
Economic programs created to foster downtown revitalization and new housing opportunities have grown considerably in the community over the past five years. Collaboration between the Chamber of Commerce, Cambridge Economic Development and regional and State partners helped complete a variety of development projects.
The City’s Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, also known as LB840, has contributed to a number of successful business expansion projects since 2005. Cities and villages may utilize LB840, through voter approval, to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development efforts. In 2019, voters elected to extend LB840 prior to expiration of the community’s 15-year program. The City currently collects a two percent sales tax designated for recreational improvements, including golf course upgrades and the community’s pool renovation project. In addition to local investments, the pool project received $310,000 from DED’s Civic and Community Center Financing Fund (CCCFF).
Over the past three years, LB840 programs have created diversity within the City’s housing community. Cambridge Economic Development’s LB840 Builder Incentive Program has provided $40,000 in assistance for the construction of duplex and speculative homes. In addition, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funded an 18-lot subdivision in the community.
State assistance for housing developments has also played a role in the growth of residential areas. For example, a storm drain project funded by the DED-administered Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program recently assisted with flood mitigation in the homes of low-to-moderate income families. Between 2010-2015, the community utilized more than $236,000 from CDBG’s Owner-Occupied Rehab (OOR) category to update 11 residential homes; reuse money from the program has since assisted in the renovation of an additional home.
“Prioritizing plans to create unique housing opportunities has emphasized local leaders’ commitment to residential longevity within this community,” said LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke. “Building mixed-use developments with a combination of local and State programs is a great example of Cambridge’s creativity in retaining and attracting new residents, which is an important asset within Nebraska’s LCC communities.”
Cambridge leaders recently completed the first phase of a downtown revitalization project, derived from the City’s Comprehensive and Strategic Plans created in 2017. Input from community stakeholders and business leaders, led by Cambridge’s Downtown Steering Group, resulted in efforts to replace sidewalks, improve storm-water drainage infrastructure and create pedestrian level lighting. The project also included installation of new wheelchair-accessible ramps to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, Cambridge Economic Development’s Façade Grant Program has provided more than $23,000 in assistance to downtown businesses for infrastructure updates since 2015.
This year, the Chamber hosted a number of leadership and marketing development opportunities for local business owners, which included training in the graphic template and design app, Canva. The training session, led by the City’s Economic Development Director and Chamber President, encouraged an increased online presence within the Cambridge business community.
Cambridge Economic Development and the Chamber also partnered in recent efforts to assist local business’ COVID-19 response. The “Gift Up!” app and website created an online shopping platform, which assisted 18 businesses through nearly $50,000 in gift card purchases.
Cambridge officials said business leaders’ resilience and creativity have led to economic stability in 2020.
“While our country faces social and economic challenges, support generated by leaders in Cambridge and Furnas County has been essential to our ongoing success as a community,” said City Clerk Kandra Kinne. “Cambridge continues to thrive as a place where Nebraskans truly want to live and work.
For additional information about the Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program, contact Kelly Gewecke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 308-627-3151, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/leadership-certified-community/.