Photo: Mayor Peg Dethlefs, Clerk Kellie Crowell, Economic Development Director Zach West

Revitalization efforts downtown and extensive development work from volunteers, business owners and students in the city of Ravenna (pop. 1,439) have earned continued accolades from the State of Nebraska. The Department of Economic Development (DED) recently announced the City’s recertification in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. LCC Program Coordinator and Central Nebraska Business Development Consultant, Kelly Gewecke, honored local leaders during a special presentation on April 4.

Ravenna 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 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. Ravenna officials earned LCC certification in 2015 and recertification in late 2021.

Local leaders have prioritized downtown improvement efforts since the City’s original LCC designation. Ravenna received federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from its Downtown Revitalization (DTR) program, which is awarded and administered by DED. The City’s current DTR project will include work on commercial rehabilitation and updated sidewalks. Local officials estimate the project’s completion in 2022. In addition, the City finished a CDBG Public Works grant project for street improvements and storm drainage in 2017. The project resulted in new asphalt and storm drains on 10 blocks in the community.

Efforts to reopen Ravenna’s grocery store, which closed in 2019, were made possible through new store ownership and volunteer work from a variety of supporters. Veronica and Jamie Morse own MNO Hometown Market in Wood River and purchased the former Ravenna Super Foods, which led community and Chamber members, business owners, retirees and Ravenna’s high school football team to assist in the store’s remodeling efforts. Ravenna’s MNO Hometown Market opened in 2021.

Community members helped recruit medical services in Ravenna following the closure of its former clinic. Grand Island’s Heartland Health Center expanded in Ravenna and opened its doors in 2020. 

Ravenna Economic Development Corporation (REDC) Executive Director, Zachary West, said the City’s work as an LCC has encouraged and inspired overall support for community growth.

“Hard working, sacrificial citizens are the backbone of Ravenna, and I am in awe of our people’s dedication to ensure that our community continues to grow by providing a wonderful place for our residents to live and thrive for years to come,” West said. “I am honored to have played a part in helping with the City’s LCC recertification, which reflects the hard work, sacrifice and dedication of Ravenna’s citizens.”

Community members celebrated the completion of a new library, which was dedicated and opened for public use in 2018. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible building has become the central point for many patrons, along with future innovators. Several grants have contributed to the library’s evolving development, including assistance from the Nebraska Library Commission’s Youth Grants for Excellence program. The grant assisted in the construction of learning stations. Additional improvements include a Maker Space with machinery for budding entrepreneurs.

Housing and recreational improvements have emerged as additional community priorities in Ravenna, including the construction of two new subdivisions made possible by the city council, Community Redevelopment Authority and REDC.

Ravenna’s Solar subdivision includes 14 lots in the northwest corner of the community and is located near the school, parks and ballfields. The Pavia Heights subdivision consists of nine available lots located near a park and church. Construction on the housing developments began last month.

Community leaders saw the need for a new emergency building, which was constructed near Ravenna’s existing fire hall. The facility is home to a new 4-wheel drive ambulance, which was purchased in 2021. In addition, Ravenna residents are currently raising funds to create a 1.68-mile hiking and biking trail, which will be constructed with crushed limestone.

“The LCC program is a tool to help Ravenna develop within many areas of our community,” said City Clerk and Treasurer Kellie Crowell. “I am extremely proud to have helped with the original certification and now the recertification. I believe this designation shows Ravenna’s commitment to grow by creating opportunities for new businesses, housing and recreation.”

New businesses in Ravenna in the last year include a signage and lighting company, a coffee shop and new ownership of the local feed store.

“The City of Ravenna and REDC continue to work together to improve our community,” said Ravenna Mayor Peg Dethlefs. “Recertifying as an LCC is a great achievement for us and I am excited for Ravenna’s future.”

For additional information about the Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program, contact Kelly Gewecke at or 308-627-3151, or visit