DAD: Quieter year of planning for future
Hiring of site selector, engineering firm, some of highlights.
Preparing for future growth is how one Dawson Area Development official describes the past year.
Jen Wolf, DAD director, said the county-wide organization, that also includes the communities of Eustis, Elwood and Smithfield, spent much of its time assessing and determining what comes next in the way of economic development.Hiring nationally known site selector John Rhodes to assess the county’s strengths and weaknesses was part of the process.
“That was an eye-opener,” Wolf said.
Rhodes pointed to a need for worker training in existing businesses which, Wolf said, brought about grants from the Nebraska Department of Labor to fund training in leadership and skills like welding.
DAD officials worked with Central Community College to provide the training.
One of the county’s strengths, Rhodes determined, is the Monsanto Learning Center. He described the water utilization center as perhaps the best marketing tool in the county because it brings in people from around the world who are interested and involved in agriculture.
Another asset, he mentioned, was the number of low-cost building sites in the county.
Wolf and Cozad Development Corporation director Robyn Geiser presented a county-wide plan—based on the findings—to the Site Selectors Guild in Chicago, IL.
“They gave us feedback on what type of investment to pursue like putting in infrastructure and doing other things,” Wolf said.
In the past year, DAD also employed engineering firm Olsson & Associates of Lincoln to do environmental studies, design lay outs of existing sites and design materials to present the sites to potential developments.
A highlight of the year, Wolf said, was a retreat last February that involved elected officials from throughout the county.
Networking, team building, discussing county issues, such as the landfill, were on the agenda.
From the discussion, which brought about a desire of city officials to work together to save money, was the hiring of a county-wide highway superintendent/engineer.
Internally, the DAD office is interviewing applicants to replace Mary Gohl, who headed up the Advocating Business Labor Education program.
Gohl took a job at a bank in Highlands Ranch, CO.
Other highlights, Wolf said, include:
The opening of the Dawson County Opportunity Center in Lexington which houses DAD offices, Central Community College offices, classrooms and equipment, a preschool, Nebraska Workforce Development offices, the Lexington Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center and Nebraska Health and Human Services.
The moving of Industrial Skins, a ceiling-tile manufacturer, into the vacant Tabora Farms building in Cozad and Lone Wolf Wurst Meats that is constructing a building in Eustis.
Also, Orthman Manufacturing of Lexington is building a new structure in an industrial tract south of town and has hired 100 new employees in the last six months to bring employment to 315 employees.
The recertification of Gothenburg, Cozad and Lexington as economic development communities for another five years and Elwood that became certified.
Dawson County is the only county in the state with three certified towns. Elwood is the smallest community to achieve the designation.