State of Nebraska Honors City of Chadron’s Decade-Long Investments in Business, Tourism Growth

Photo of the NNDC board, along with Rob Bila (Platte Valley Bank and Diplomat) presenting. Others in the picture are NNDC board members.
From left to right: Corey Pourier, Jen Brown, Jason Carnahan, Jordyn Stevens, Jessica Sanford, Deb Cottier, Rob Bila, Jake Stewart, Ty Huls, TJ Ruttledge, George Klein and April Grant. (Photo courtesy of The Chadron Record)

The State of Nebraska has recognized the city of Chadron (pop. 5,229) for continued success in community development, job creation and regional economic partnerships. Today, the Nebraska Diplomats and the Department of Economic Development (DED) announced the City’s recertification in the Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) program. Chadron Diplomat Rob Bila presented the award during Northwest Nebraska Development Corporation’s (NNDC) annual meeting.

Chadron is one of 40 Nebraska communities to earn EDCC status in the program, sponsored by the Nebraska Diplomats and administered by DED. State officials established the EDCC program in 2005 to recognize communities for preparedness to attract new industries and expand existing businesses. Qualifying communities must identify a well-defined program that actively engages with existing businesses to offer a supportive environment for economic growth. This includes documenting available sites and buildings, creating local financing and incentive programs and implementing strategic planning. The City of Chadron received its first EDCC certification in 2012 and earned recertifications in 2017 and 2022.

Nearly 300 Nebraska Diplomats collaborate with and encourage business and community leaders to promote the state’s productive economic climate and quality of life.

“Northwest Nebraska leaders have a unique responsibility to build the region’s business and tourism sectors through partnerships encouraged in the EDCC program,” Bila said. “Over the past five years, the City of Chadron and NNDC have played leading roles in downtown and transportation developments, as well as collaborative efforts to create growth within our workforce.”

NNDC serves the Chadron and Crawford communities to assist new and expanding businesses in northwest Nebraska. The corporation consults with more than a dozen prospective business owners annually who have specific plans to start, purchase or expand their presence. NNDC actively participates in DED’s Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program to build relationships with existing business owners. The BRE program creates opportunities to gauge local interest in Nebraska’s business and housing programs, as well as the need for help in developing a robust local workforce and childcare facilities. NNDC prioritizes regional partnerships to grow the BRE program by engaging leaders from the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) and Panhandle Area Development District (PADD) in the process.

“Western Nebraska providers are well known collaborators who support growth in our diverse business sectors and the tourism industry,” said NNDC Executive Director Deb Cottier. “This not only expands local economic opportunities, but also helps to prioritize developmental interests in the entire Panhandle region.”

Over the past five years, NNDC assisted in creating 82 new jobs and retaining positions for 17 existing employees in Chadron. New job creation resulted in $6.2 million in community investments. The group continues to work diligently in the further development of Chadron’s Downtown Plaza, which was partially funded by a local grant to provide engineering needed to build handicapped accessible restrooms. Nebraska’s Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (LB840) is a voter-approved program that appropriates area tax dollars for economic development. 

NNDC spearheaded efforts to sustain Chadron’s business community during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cottier and her board implemented financial grants and a matching gift card program, and assisted business owners in applying for federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) assistance. NNDC hosted the community’s first drive-by job fair to link prospective employees with local employers. Chadron’s Chamber of Commerce, Northwest Nebraska Tourism and the Nebraska Department of Labor served as partners in these efforts.

Local leaders continue to prioritize marketing and leadership development to build a strong local workforce. NNDC assisted 30 residents in the community’s annual Leadership Chadron program. The group utilizes Nebraska’s Location One (LOIS) program, which highlights available sites and buildings for prospective business owners. NNDC’s website and quarterly newsletter, as well as the Nebraska Business Development Center’s (NBDC) SourceLink Nebraska program, offer additional economic resources for new and growing businesses.

NNDC hosts a popular event that supports ongoing relationships between state and local leaders, which also creates additional revenue for area businesses. The Governor’s Pine Ridge Wild Turkey Hunt provides an opportunity for Nebraska’s Governor, nearly two dozen state senators and Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners to hunt local ground one weekend a year during turkey season in Nebraska. More than 20 local landowners participate in the event, which is sponsored by a dozen area businesses. 

Cottier and her team serve as regional leaders in economic development via PADD, the Northwest Nebraska Planning Committee, the Rural Prosperity Initiative, the Western Nebraska Development Network (WNDN) and the Chadron Housing Committee. She is also an active member of the Nebraska Economic Developer’s Association (NEDA) as Legislative Committee Co-Chair. She has been instrumental in the ongoing development of the Heartland Expressway as Chairman of the Heartland Expressway Association. When completed, the project will provide multilane, divided highway access between Rapid City and Denver via Alliance, Scottsbluff and Brush, CO.

For additional information on the Economic Development Certified Community Program, Contact Ashley Rice-Gerlach at 308-655-0919, or ashley.gerlach@nebraska.gov, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/economic-development-certified-community-edcc/.

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