Glennis McClure

Glennis McClure, director of the NGage economic development group, poses outside Beatrice Carnegie building in October. The area’s economic development group was organized around five years ago.

The NGage economic development group is recalling a solid 2015 for the area, and looking forward to new accomplishments this year.

Glennis McClure, director of the area’s economic development group, said highlights from 2015 include announcements from Landmark Snacks LLC, DaVita Dialysis and Scooter’s Coffee, as well as continued plans for the opening of the Duonix biodiesel plant were all positive steps for the community.

“I think as you look back, there’s been some positive announcements and expansions for our area,” McClure said. “We continue to try and recruit businesses. It’s good that Landmark Snacks which is a new company expanded by C & C Processing, looked to the community and found a location.”

McClure also said expansions at Neapco and Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center are welcome additions, while focusing on current employers in the area remains a priority.

“We continue to do outreach,” she said. “It’s important to visit with our current businesses. One thing we want to do is identify businesses that want to transition and connect them with resources that help them with that transition and find folks that can step up and take ownership. We don’t want to see businesses close because someone’s retiring.”

While the group has found success, Mayor Stan Wirth said there’s still much to do.

“I think we’re moving forward. We have a lot of work to do putting frameworks together to meet with prospects as they come into Beatrice,” he said. “We’ve moved a step closer to putting in an action team when we get the requests and inquiries to move quick to get pertinent information the prospect is looking for.

“This is something we’ve learned to do on the fly. We’ve had some additional guidance from people that has really broadened our view of what it takes to attract a company to our community.”

McClure also said the results of an ongoing housing study should give officials new insight into the area’s needs, which could result in more jobs.

“It’s identifying developers and also funding resources that can help with new housing developments and also rehabilitation in housing,” she said. “Also, I believe we’re going to have to have some coalition. They stress that partnerships are very important in housing development, so I think there’s a lot of people who are paying attention and are interested in stepping up and trying to make some things happen.”

The Gage County Communities Housing Study comes at a total cost of $30,000, half of which is being provided by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA). The study consists of various surveys being administered by Hanna:Keelan Associates.

The study includes examination of population, income and economic data, a housing stock analysis, strategies for affordable housing development and a five-year housing action plan.

It will also include funding options for future owner and rental housing development and housing rehabilitation projects in each community throughout the county, and hopes to gather input from a wide range of participants.

The study is scheduled for completion next month.

NGage was formed around five years ago as a joint effort between Gage County and the city of Beatrice, the two groups that provide the vast majority of NGage’s funding.

Last year, both governmental bodies agreed to continue their investments in NGage for another three years. The groups each provide up to $100,000 annually to fund NGage, while other communities, businesses and individuals are also contributing members of the economic development group.

NGage also works with businesses submitting requests for LB840 funds, which are earmarked for economic development purposes and approved by the City Council.

The funds have been used with general success, as companies such as Dempsters have used the loans to increase short-term growth – adding jobs and increasing production – then successfully repayed the loans.

Funding for the program comes from 50 percent of the proceeds from one-half of 1 percent city sales and use tax for Beatrice with a maximum of $250,000 to be appropriated each year, totaling $2.5 million during a 10-year period. The funds are ultimately awarded by the Beatrice City Council, which examines each request before approval.

McClure added economic development often boils down to being competitive with other communities and states in hoping to draw business, a task NGage is continuously working on.

“When there are companies that have an interest in locating in our area of Nebraska, we need to be competitive,” she said. “Sometimes it boils down to what we have available for them to utilize. … I think the challenges really are can we meet the needs that the company is looking for. I believe that we have.”

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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