BY KERRY ANDERSON
What impact would 20 young professionals have moving into your town? In 2013 I saw first hand the benefits of a community collaborating on a long term strategic plan to strengthen business. It didn't happen by accident!
Ord in Valley County, Nebraska is frequently cited as a great example of what a community can achieve and for good reason. This rural town of 2,112 people (total county population 4,647) has strategically worked together to create long lasting benefits. Not by accident they did they attract 20 young professionals within four years of their Community Foundation being established. This is a resourceful community led by a cross section of dynamic community leaders.
Where progress happens every day
Rural role model: that’s just one name Ord has been called in the past five years. Ord exemplifies a rural community with a vibrant future. Since 2000, the Ord area has experienced over $125 million of private and public investment in our community. Also in that time, Ord and Valley County have witnessed the creation of over 100 new businesses, 350 new jobs, a return to pre-recession unemployment levels, strong per-capita wage growth, retail growth and property valuation increases. Out here in Ord we carry a boot-strap mentality: we build a bright future for ourselves.
Ord is more than just the rural standard when it comes to economic growth. Working in Ord also brings the best aspects of living in a small town: zero commute, a low cost of living and high civic engagement. You have the time, resources and community connections which can truly make you happy. It doesn’t hurt that Ord is located on the eastern edge of the Nebraska Sandhills, one of the most beautiful places in all of the Great Plains.
Whether you choose to be a business owner or work in our community, you’ll find Ord is a small town that exemplifies the Best of the Good Life.
Careers in Ord and Valley County has a strong need for workers in specific industries. Careers can be found in professional services, skilled trades, renewable energy, agriculture, manufacturing and retail to name a few.
2013 excerpt from: www.ordnebraska.com
How do they fund it?
Sales Tax Program for Economic Development: The Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (LB 840) was approved by Ord voters in 2001 for to create our sales tax program for economic development, a financing tool to fund existing business needs, the development of new business start-ups and economic develop- ment site improvements. One major program feature includes a low-interest loan business program for business lending throughout Valley County. To date, over $2 million dollars have been loaned out to over 40 local businesses in Ord and the surrounding communities.
Valley County Community Foundation: Established in 2000 as an off shoot of the Nebraska Community Foundation, the Valley Foundation focusses on the four pillars of:
Attracting the support of local donors, grants and bequests, the foundation has built up to just over $500,000. In one year alone (2012) it distributed $45,000 of assistance to community activities aligned with the four pillars.
What do they do?
Start simple and build on it seems to be the philosophy of this community. Here are just a few examples:
Young Professionals Group: Regular social outings to help engage and retain those young people that they have worked so hard to attract.
Entrepreneurship Innovation Camp: During the summer break an annual four day camp is offered to 40 youth free of charge enabling them to develop and launch their business ideas. At the conclusion of the camp they sell or promote their wares at an open market day.
Youth Business Discovery Day: An annual day conducted jointly by the schools and local businesses to highlight business as a career pathway.
Youth Entrepreneur Showcase: The inaugural Y.E.S. event was conducted in 2013 with an impressive list of activities being offered for students to develop and showcase business ideas.
Scholarships: The Fund offers three $100.00 scholarships to young leaders residing in the area to attend an annual youth leadership summit to encourage leadership development and local engagement and civic service.
Ord Area ChamberBucks: Personal cheques that can be spent at any member business.
Who drives it?
Chamber of Commerce: Much like our Progress Associations, the Valley Chamber membership comprises of businesses, service organisations and groups alike; everybody from the health service to the Rotary Club; even individuals. Membership starts at $25 for youth, $100 for home based businesses and then scales up to $1,000 for the big corporates. Apart from the usual benefits, some of the incentives include 0% loans for store front improvements and virtual store fronts. Ribbon cutting ceremonies support new openings. The list goes on ...
Economic Development Board: The Valley County Economic Development Board serves as the primary facilitative organization for economic growth and development. Ord is Nebraska’s first Certified Economic Development Community. Eight finance options are available to startups and businesses wishing to make improvements or expand.
“The connection between our business community and our youth is imperative to our continued success in growing our economy and creating opportunities for our youth to return home after college to raise their families and begin their careers or start a business.” Bob Stowell - Valley County Community Foundation Fund Chairman
KERRY ANDERSON: A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia. She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE
MEET KERRY IN PERSON: During August Kerry is sharing her knowledge on entrepreneurship as part of the Small Business Festival in Melbourne (8 Aug), Geelong (19 Aug) and Bendigo (31 Aug). READ MORE