Scott Koperski news editor for the Daily Sun
Much of the economy slowed over the past year, but there were still success stories in economic development across Gage County.
And NGage, the region’s economic development group, is still taking calls from potential businesses and helping existing businesses grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The challenge we have is getting all the good things camouflaged by the fog of COVID-19,” said Trevor Lee, NGage Executive Director. “We still invested a lot in the area last year. We’re still getting inquiries about property locations, but as far as the site visits are concerned, what we knew earlier is different and may never return to what it was. So we value the technology because we invented our own model of a hybrid system for site visits. That was a learning experience for us. “
Lee said Bomgaar’s plans to open a Beatrice location in the former Shopko building and the opening of Harbor Freight in the former China Buffet restaurant in Indian Creek Mall are good examples of retail expansion in the area.
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“Everything from manufacturing to retail and service industries, we’ve received calls,” said Lee. “We are seeing a shift in interest in buildings towards smaller instead of over 20,000 feet. Many of them are looking for places near that 10,000 square foot area.
“They are looking for construction sites. When it’s a startup they often look for rental space, which reduces the number of buildings we can put in their way. If having a store front is important, let’s take a look at four lane, or Court Street, for east and west. Then there is the level of investment, whether or not government incentives can play a role, tax increase financing or the LB840 loan pool are other instruments that we are promoting. “
On the expansion side of the business, Erin Chadwick, marketing coordinator at NGage, said a business that has grown over the past year is Landmark Snacks.
“They added another 27,000 square feet to their existing 63,000 square foot facility in 2020. “They were also an essential business helping them during a pandemic. That is storage space with which they can continue to grow. “
Landmark Snacks, based at 700 Park St., has been producing various meat-based snacks such as protein bars, jerky bites and snack sticks since 2016.
In July, the company acquired part of Seventh Street and added the warehouse for dry storage.
Chadwick added that a big highlight for NGage last year was the hiring of Lee.
“Last year we didn’t have an Executive Director of NGage around this time, so the hiring of Trevor was instrumental in keeping Gage County’s economic development going and he has done a fantastic job at keeping Gage County’s economy going, despite the last year that we were thrown to move forward. “Year,” she said.
Lee was previously Executive Director of Valley County Economic Development in Ord. His appointment at NGage was announced last February during NGage’s annual Banquet and Meet.
He has been with Valley County Economic Development since 2013 and has been involved in a number of projects including renovating the county’s LB840 Economic Development Fund, implementing a housing development for workers, and building and managing a corporate loan pool.
Lee said Gage County’s economic development has not gone unnoticed. It was recently declared a certified business development company and received an award for Community Showcase of the Year last year.
The award was announced by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development as part of Community Development Week last April, and followed a lengthy application process from area organizations working to improve the community.
The prize is awarded for outstanding achievements in municipal and economic development over the past five years.
In downtown Beatrice, over $ 3 million revitalization has changed the streetscape and shops, restored the life and vibrancy of the city’s historic heart, while sparking new commerce and tourism.
“I think we have strong support for local businesses from a smaller business perspective,” said Lee. “Main Street and the Chamber of Commerce do an excellent job for this ‘shop floor’ mentality. For larger companies, I find the diversity of our industry very attractive. It shows that we are business friendly and open to business. We are half an hour from the interstate and major highways run through town. You can get a product almost anywhere in the US in approximately a two-day truck trip. That is the key for manufacturing companies. “
In a press release from the Ministry for Economic Development, a housing study from 2016 is also named as a factor for the award. Following the housing study, the city planned, built or renovated over 200 residential units. Meanwhile, the completion of more than 55 miles of the Chief Standing Bear Trail has provided residents and visitors with a new and scenic way to get exercise while enjoying the local scenery and wildlife.