ord sunshine pumpers

life in rural nebraska

A conversation about the economy

with 5 comments

A new effort we’ll be embarking upon is a weekly column in the Ord Quiz about economic development and the community.  You can have a read from our first effort below.  You will see quite a few similarities with our message in our blog, but we’re trying to also reach a new audience with the print media.  Let me know what you think – and please, this is a two way conversation.  Feel free to comment, flame, whatever!

Joe and Adam Wadas pose with a new plasma cutter purchase with local sales tax fundsWhat does economic development mean to you?  Why is it important?  What has been its impact on our community?  These are all important questions to ask when thinking about community economic development and your life.  A Conversation about the Economy is a new series intended to open dialogue about the impact of economic growth and development in Ord and Valley County.  Each week I will talk about trends, projects and outcomes within our community and how they play a role in larger economic issues found in our state, our nation and our world.  I also invite you, the reader, to comment on these trends through the Quiz and on our blog.  A recap of these comments will be posted on our blog:  www.ordsunshinepumpers.wordpress.com so in-depth discussion of economic development trends can continue.

Many of you may ask, “What is economic development’s role within the community”?  Some of you may even be asking “Why should economic development exist in the first place”?  To put it bluntly: because we need to be.  In 1999, many in Ord believed the community was in a downward spiral.  Economic data and general attitudes about the community, at the time, would serve to confirm this.  Many main street businesses were closing.  Then, in 2000 as efforts to generate interest and support for economic development grew fruitful, things began to turn around.  A major reason was due to the efforts of the Valley County Economic Development Board which was created by an innovative use of community collaboration:  the inter-local agreement law.  This gave local units of government the ability to collaborate in ways of benefit to local taxpayers.

Representatives from Valley County, the City of Ord, the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce and Greater Loup Valleys Activities, Inc. were appointed to develop the capacity necessary for economic stabilization, and then growth in Valley County.  Let me be clear about the goals of Valley County Economic Development.  We do not create jobs.  We create opportunities for growth and development.  Economic development comes from the growth and prosperity within local businesses and the community as a whole.  Economic development’s main priority was to create an environment ready for growth.

Speed's Apple Market Ribbon CuttingThe positive, can-do attitude has led to the growth of 100 new businesses in our county since 2000.  Citing from a newly released Economic and Demographic Trends Report by Nebraska Public Power District, Valley County’s growth isn’t just anecdotal in the 100 new businesses.  Since 2001, one year after economic development had begun in the county, positive growth exploded.  “Total non-farm wage and salary employment in Valley County increased 15.9 percent (239 jobs) from 2001 to 2008, compared to a 5.6 percent increase for Nebraska as a whole, a 3.7 percent increase in metropolitan Nebraska, and a 2.2 percent increase in non-metropolitan Nebraska.” (Overhue, 2010).

We beat the state average for job growth.  We also beat our rural competition.  Most importantly, we beat metro Nebraska in total job growth over that same time period.

Other highlights include a total labor force that grew 9.0% between 2001-2008.  We also saw wage growth of about $2,000 between 2006-2007.  And our retail sector continues its strongest presence since 1991.  Results in the community have been new businesses, community improvements and a municipal sales tax program for economic development.

We do have our challenges as well.  Too many local folks have to commute for work.  Our overall per capita wages need improvement.  The recession will begin to show its full effect in reports released later this spring.  And out-migration and population decline will continue to present real threats to all these economic gains.  Yet, challenges facing us can also be opportunities.

Our area youth lead the outmigration from our county but most of them are leaving for an education.  A newly expanded community college Learning Center can assist with retaining those that want to stay.  Most importantly, what can be interpreted from the trend report is that local community attitudes can predict the success or failure within a community.  If Ord and Valley County want to succeed and thrive in the future, we need to believe we can.  What I find most enlightening in the data is that while population decline continues to impact our community, it may be a misleading economic trend when you see corresponding growth in jobs, retail pull and overall wages.

Why?  From 2000-2010, the net economic gain for our community has been overwhelmingly positive.  The economic growth has been part and parcel of an attitudinal shift of epic proportions.  You the community have been responsible for this growth.  And congratulations are in order.

These trends extend beyond data reports and the musings of economic developers.  They translate into real world impacts that affect you, the reader.  They also extend into the community’s belief in self-led investment.  In December 2009, local shoppers purchased over $20,000 in Chamberbucks.  That’s one month in a small community.  $20,000 that will be reinvested into local businesses that are buy local services, goods and pay local wages.

Another example of those real world impacts stem from the closure of Hamilton Communications and the expansion of Central Community College’s Ord Learning Center.  After losing 25 jobs, 400 survey takers assisted economic development reach an agreement in expanding higher education in our community.  You, the community, were central in taking a loss and turning it into an opportunity.  The community bought into the idea that participation could directly affect the community in a positive manner.  That opportunity has turned into an operational Learning Center which has already doubled enrollment from last year.  More is planned for the future.

Our future is bright and many great things are before all of us.  The bright future requires your participation.  I hope you’ll join me on this conversation about our economy and our community.  Until next week, be well.


Written by Caleb

January 28, 2010 at 3:50 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Way to go, Ord!!! Keep up the great work! Also, thank you for all of your assistance in helping other commmunities to grow, too! There is a reason why Ord is known for being progressive and you are to be commended for your efforts!

    Kristin Olson

    January 28, 2010 at 7:51 pm

  2. Thanks for the love, Kristin. We are proud of our accomplishments and will keep fighting the good fights for rural Nebraska!


    January 28, 2010 at 8:08 pm

  3. Congratulations Ord! This is great news for rural communities across the states. I am curious as to your retention rate for young Nebraskan’s? Is Ord retaining young professionals in the workforce? And if so, what types of incentives are important for your youth to stay located in your rural community? Caleb, if you would like to have these results posted on our website, http://www.nxbizsuccess.com, we would like to share them with the rest of our members too! Again, way to go and keep up the good work!

    Tonia Franklin

    January 29, 2010 at 5:06 pm

  4. Tonia – we’d love for you to repost. Ord is truly a dynamic community and one that believes in self-investment and self-determination. We aren’t done yet 🙂


    January 29, 2010 at 5:10 pm

  5. […] You can read last week’s article here. […]

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