From the outside looking in, economic development work can seem incredibly business focused. Most discussions center around new business attraction and business retention and expansion. Often, grant programs, tax incentives and even housing initiatives are designed to directly benefit businesses. All in all, it can appear like an important piece of the puzzle, the people who will work for the business and live in the community, is being forgotten.
That’s not the case for most community and economic development leaders in Nebraska. The week before Thanksgiving 130 of those individuals, representing more than 25 communities, came together for the Nebraska Community Foundation’s (NCF) People Attraction Summit.
The Summit was designed to bring together individuals from around the state connected to various affiliated funds with NCF to hear information about population shifts in rural areas and some of the different factors at play. Attendees then came together in regional teams to design an actionable plan to drive attraction and retention of talented people to their area.
Communities, resource providers and different development groups from around the state were represented, including NPPD with Economic Development consultants Rick Nelsen and Lyndsy Jenness collaborating with two different sets of communities from northeast and southeast Nebraska. Nicole Sedlacek, NPPD’s economic development manager, served as a “navigator” for a group, facilitating the conversation to help them come up with their idea and to work and craft their pitch when it came to the competition.
“I put on my “resource provider” hat as we worked to develop a duplicatable plan of work,” said Jenness. “…my table left knowing that we (NPPD) are an ally in this effort, however they might approach it.”
Teams pitched their ideas “Shark-Tank Style” before three winners for the day were selected. Ideas ranged from an app to assist in business transition planning and recruitment, to a “Village within a Village” housing plan for both seniors and families, to a plan to help communities add walking/running trails.
The top three all got $100 at the Summit, but all the affiliated funds with representatives in attendance will have the opportunity to apply for grants to help support recruitment and attraction workplans. Funding for those grants comes from the Nebraska Community Foundation Board of Directors from their Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund will be used to create and catalyze bold and transformational ideas or experiments to further one or more goals articulated in the NCF Strategic Framework – people attraction being one of those goals.
“NPPD is a willing partner in helping our communities and the communities our customers serve achieve their community and economic development goals,” said Sedlacek. “I think we are learning as to what needs there are and the role NPPD can play to help them achieve their goals, ultimately helping to power a greater Nebraska!”