“Neligh’s recognition as a Leadership Certified Community is a fantastic acknowledgement of our widespread mindset to build local leaders.” – Andy Elder, Neligh Economic Development Board Chairman
August 13, 2020 (LINCOLN) — The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) has recognized the City of Neligh, Neb., (pop. 1.516) for success in attracting healthcare professionals, encouraging entrepreneurial development and downtown revitalization efforts. DED announced the community’s most recent designation in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program. DED Business Development Consultant Lyndsy Jenness honored City officials during a special presentation at Neligh’s City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 11.
Neligh 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 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 Neligh as an LCC in 2015, prior to its most recent recertification in 2020.
Over the past five years, Neligh leaders have established the City’s reputation as a healthcare hub through the creation of an industry recruitment team. Collaboration between Antelope County Hospital, the Antelope County Healthcare Foundation and Jensen Family Dentistry contributed to a number of developments in the community’s healthcare industry. In doing so, the team leveraged nearly $80,000 in local donations through a matching $240,000 grant to recruit doctors and dentists to Neligh through student loan repayments. In addition, recent expansion efforts at Antelope Memorial Hospital include a new medical clinic and a behavioral health program.
Community leaders continue to prioritize commercial development in its downtown business district, made possible through local and state investments. Efforts generated within the Neligh Economic Development Organization (NEDO) and the City of Neligh resulted in $27,840 in assistance from the State of Nebraska in 2016. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Downtown Revitalization (DTR) funding has since led to the completion of façade work and structural updates for more than a dozen businesses. Since 2014, economic officials have assisted in the development of 42 new businesses and expansion projects at seven businesses. The community’s business expansion projects alone generated more than $10 million in local investments.
“It is a tremendous honor for the City of Neligh to be recognized for our ongoing commitment to economic excellence,” said NEDO Board Chairman and Pinnacle Bank Marketing President, Andy Elder. “Our City takes great pride in the leadership demonstrated by our business owners and community volunteers, which continually shows why Neligh is a great place to live, grow and own a business. Neligh’s recertification as an LCC is a fantastic acknowledgement of our widespread mindset to build local leaders.”
Philanthropic and volunteer efforts led to a number of recent community developments, including the formation of the New Moon Community Theater Foundation following the theater’s closure in 2015. The foundation purchased the theater from private owners and qualified for assistance for Neligh’s Downtown Revitalization Program in 2018, which led to restoration of the theater’s roof, neon sign and ceramic brick façade.
In 2019, the Neligh Area Community Foundation joined the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF) network to form the Neligh Area Community Fund. Neligh qualified for NCF’s Hometown Intern Program in early 2020, which led to a number of development opportunities for University of Nebraska-Kearney Business Education major Lydia Behnk. As an intern, Behnk worked with the Neligh Area Community Foundation and NCF leaders on efforts to promote an internship program for Neligh high school students and create a local alumni ‘return-retain’ plan.
NEDO’s commitment to growing Neligh’s business community resulted in the recent creation of an Entrepreneur Apprenticeship Program to increase student exposure to future job opportunities. City leaders also promoted entrepreneurial development through a Nebraska Library Innovation Studios MakerSpace Partnership. The 2018 partnership encouraged creativity in the Neligh Public Library through exposure to new technology, including a vinyl cutter, 3-D printer, CNC router, green screen and camera.
“As Nebraska’s LCC program evolves, our members continue to show great depth in finding ways to keep talented young people in our rural communities,” said LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke. “Neligh’s entrepreneurial programs don’t just provide a sounding board for future leaders; they also strengthen relationships between multiple generations. This community’s innovative approach to workforce development shows its continued strength as an LCC.”
In 2019, the Neligh Chamber of Commerce developed and launched the community’s first Ag and Home Show to offer additional resources for local producers and businesses, which included guest speakers’ focus on ag production costs, financial well-being and climatology. The event featured nearly 60 informational booths in its inaugural year through partnerships with the Antelope County Ag Society, county Future Farmers of America (FFA) alumni, Neligh-Oakdale Schools and the Neligh Senior Center.
Increased volunteerism continues to evolve within local organizations, such as FFA, Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). In 2016, the community formed a new group, the Women of Neligh (WON), to complement its Young Men’s Club. The groups most recently partnered on fundraising efforts for a community pool improvement project and support for 2019 flood victims. In addition, partnerships within the NEDO, Chamber of Commerce and Neligh Area Community Foundation have encouraged collaboration among local businesses. NEDO created a young professionals group in 2016 and plans to partner with chamber members to host a Gallup Strength Finder Workshop later this year. State and local economic developers have consistently utilized Gallup’s resources to assess new leadership and educational opportunities for business owners and their teams.
“As a community, it is necessary that we all work together to sustain and grow our community to be viable in the future,” said Neligh Area Community Foundation Chairman Al Stelling. “The future of Neligh truly depends on all citizens and community leaders to strive for a better tomorrow.”
For additional information about the Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program, contact Kelly Gewecke at firstname.lastname@example.org, 308-627-3151, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/leadership-certified-community/