Friday, August 01, 2014
   
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DAD gets 26% boost in dues City council grants increase

Everything Jen Wolf shared at a recent Gothenburg City Council meeting seemed to have the attention of members.

And, when Wolf’s presentation was over, the council granted her request for $5,000 more in dues.

Wolf is director of Dawson Area Development that will receive $24,000 next year from the city which is a 26% increase from the previous amount of $19,000.

While at the council meeting, Wolf told how the county-wide economic development organization:

has returned $11 in grant funds for every $1 of dues paid by member towns in the community

received $1.2 million in grant money last year

has obtained $10.1 million in grants since the organization starting writing them in 2006.

Council member Duane Oliver said he thinks Gothenburg gets a great return from DAD.

County valuation has increased 60% in the last 10 years. Increases from commercial business and industry have been significantly higher than in Adams, Buffalo, Lincoln and Hall counties, she said.

Wolf noted that the county also saw a drop in property tax rates in 2012, adding that the rate in Dawson County was lower than in Buffalo, Adams and Hall counties.

“We try to keep property taxes low and add investment to the area,” she said.

With data from a housing market study, Wolf said home appreciation in Dawson County grew 2% in 2012.

She said DAD continues to evaluate the needs of the county in terms of the kinds of housing units the market will bear to try and attract more housing investment.

City attorney Mike Bacon noted that towns can’t grow without housing.

“And we’re short of affordable housing county wide,” Bacon said.

Unemployment rates in the county, over the past several years, were lower than the rest of the country.

Despite the closure of Tenneco, Wolf said unemployment in the county in 2013 hovered at 3.9% compared to the state average of 3.8%.

Compared to the rest of the country, Wolf said Dawson County’s cost of living is 16.5% lower than the U.S. average.

While the 2012 fiscal year brought several ground-breakings, Wolf described 2013 as investing in the future.

Downtown revitalization is underway in Lexington with grant funding for the same in Gothenburg and Cozad looking positive, she said.

The Dawson County Historical Museum is completing a handicapped accessibility project and several new displays have been created.

“The number of visitors there is up,” Wolf said.

In downtown Lexington, the public school system is restoring the downtown Majestic Theatre with help from a $255,000 grant.

Wolf noted that the Gothenburg and Lexington hospitals received Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants in 2013 and that four more entities were the recipients of REDLG grants in previous years.

Because of its economic success, she said the county has received statewide recognition and has been asked to host groups from different states and countries such as Japan.

In addition, Nebraska Economic Development officials spent two days in the county.

“We’ve built a strong relationship with them,” Wolf said. “And we’re in tune with what is required for what we get and have the numbers to back up our needs.”

When DAD was formed in 1989, Gothenburg paid $15,000 in dues. Then, Wolf noted that the organization was only doing economic development.

Today, DAD also does grant writing, community and housing development, administers the county lodging tax and worker training grants and facilitates leadership and Advocating for Business and Labor and Education programs.

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