Nebraska economic development officials have taken notice of progress made in Gage County, and named Beatrice the winner of the statewide showcase award.
The award was announced by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development as part of community development week, and followed a lengthy application process by area organizations that work to improve the community.
“When we put together our application, they asked us to answer questions along the lines of what was our community doing with regards to collaboration and working together,” said Micahel Sothan, director of Main Street Beatrice. “Not just among organizations and civic leaders but also with residents, how were we engaging residents and asking us to talk about the community goals that were out there and partnerships we created.”
The award is bestowed for outstanding achievements in community and economic development over the past five years.
In downtown Beatrice, a more than $3 million revitalization effort has transformed streetscapes and businesses, restoring life and vibrancy to the historic heart of the city while sparking new commerce and tourism.
“Developing our communities is essential. Creating amenities that make our young people excited to raise a family in Nebraska is essential,” said Department of Economic Development director Anthony L. Goins in a press release. “It’s only a given that at the local level there will always be funding challenges. We want our community leaders to know that at the state level, we are here to help them 100%,that there are state and federal resources available to support the incredible work they’re doing to better their communities, and subsequently the state of Nebraska.”
Sothan cited the Mercantile Building in downtown as one success story of an old building finding new use.
“That’s now turned into multiple businesses,” he said. “I think there’s currently six businesses in that building and they’re planning an additional floor being renovated.”
A press release from the Department of Economic Development also cited a housing study from 2016 as a factor in the award. Following the housing study, the city has planned, built or rehabilitated more than 200 housing units. Meanwhile, the completion of 35-plus miles of the Chief Standing Bear Trail has given residents and visitors a new and scenic way to get some exercise while enjoying the local landscape and wildlife.
Erin Chadwick, marketing coordinator with the NGage economic development group, added that investment in the Gage County industrial park was another aspect of the community that’s seen improvement over the year.
“So many of our industrial companies have put a lot of investment in this community,” she said. “It’s not something the community sees everyday. You’re not driving through industrial park every day so for NGage this is something we love to highlight. We take people on tours, we drive through industrial park, we point out the international investment, new buildings and all of the equipment inside. It’s something we want the community to know and really take pride in that award.”
In addition to the items specifically highlighted by the state, Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce director Angie Bruna cited Vintage Venue, Taco John’s and McDonalds as some of the additional new constructions or renovations that have benefited the area.
“Outside of what’s on this nomination, there’s just so much going on that it’s hard to list every single piece,” she said. “We really do have a lot of expansion, a lot of people investing in the community business-wise, which then feeds into the quality of life for employees. If they have a place to go to work, they can take pride in that.”
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