Photo (left to right): Raquel Felzien, Franklin city clerk; Mayor Margaret Siel; Megan Spargo, consultant; Council Member Sandy Urbina; Council Member Tom Drener; Council Member Kasey Loschen
City recognized as a Leadership Certified Community by Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
Successful efforts to expand employee amenities and economic development in the city of Franklin (pop. 1,000) have earned accolades from the State of Nebraska. The Department of Economic Development (DED) recognized Franklin as the newest member of Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program on November 9. DED Central Nebraska Business Development Consultant and LCC Program Coordinator, Kelly Gewecke, honored economic development leaders during a special presentation to the Franklin City Council.
Franklin is one of 32 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 display readiness in technological development to help new and existing businesses grow. Qualifying LCCs 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.
Recent collaborative efforts to retain Franklin’s skilled workforce resulted in the creation of a State-licensed Little Flyers Academy childcare facility. The Franklin Community Foundation and the Franklin Community Development Authority (CDA) played key roles in the daycare’s formation. The Franklin CDA provided a $10,000 forgivable loan for the project; in addition, the City provides the daycare utilities at a discounted rate.
The Franklin CDA is also leading downtown revitalization efforts through a facade update program, which was designed to improve downtown aesthetics and infrastructure. This June, the group participated in a 75% cost share to improve downtown’s first building facade project in the program.
Mayor Margaret Siel pointed to continued downtown development efforts as an essential step to economic growth. Mayor Siel, Franklin City Clerk Raquel Felzien and Consultant Megan Spargo recently collaborated to develop programs geared towards downtown development.
“We want our businesses and our resident community to thrive, and we understand that becoming a Leadership Community is a big part of that,” Mayor Siel said. “We are blessed to be able to provide incentive programs that will bolster new opportunities for our town.”
The City recently received federal assistance, which was awarded and administered by DED, from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to upgrade Franklin’s internet capabilities. The $1.2 million grant developed fiber in Franklin and in rural areas to increase the area’s broadband capacity.
Community officials continue to work collaboratively with Southern Power District on energy conservation efforts, which include participation in the Operation Round Up grant program. Over the past six years, the City has secured more than $30,000 for improvements at Franklin Memorial Hospital and Franklin County’s Senior Center, Ag Society and Historical Society.
“Franklin leaders are continually looking for ways to better serve the community through conservation efforts in essential and well-utilized buildings,” said Southern Power District President and CEO Neal Niedfieldt. “Becoming a Leadership Certified Community falls in line with the values of both Franklin and the Southern Power District. We commend the City for efforts to find new paths geared towards development and growth.”
The Rose Bowl Theatre is a 100% volunteer-run theatre that features popular movies every Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The theater encourages social connections in the community during movie weekends and as a site for local events, such as an annual Halloween Goblin Parade for area youth. The City provided nearly $5,000 to assist in purchasing new theater seats, as well as a $23,000 forgivable loan to cost share roofing repairs.
Efforts to create new housing opportunities in Franklin resulted in a community needs assessment survey and an updated housing study, made possible through a partnership with the South Central Economic Development District (SCEDD). SCEDD assists local leaders through the HomeNE Learning Network, which was designed to connect rural leaders to explore innovative approaches to housing development and redevelopment.
City officials are also pursuing ongoing efforts to develop vacant housing stock in Franklin. In 2017, the community received Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for owner-occupied rehabilitation projects. Federal CDBG funding is administered by DED.
“Evolving development efforts throughout our county and community are contingent on local leaders who know how to help Franklin grow,” said Franklin County Extension Agent Rhonda Herrick. “We look forward to creating new opportunities through Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community program.
For more information about the Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program,
contact Kelly Gewecke at email@example.com or 308-627-3151, or visit