September 8, 2021 (LINCOLN, NEB.) – Local, regional and state partnerships for workforce development in the city of Deshler (pop. 817) have earned recognition from the State of Nebraska. This week, the Department of Economic Development (DED) announced Deshler as the newest member of Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. DED Central Nebraska Business Development Consultant and LCC Program Director Kelly Gewecke honored City officials during a special presentation on Tuesday, September 7.
Deshler is the 31st Nebraska community to qualify under the LCC program, which was created in 2011 to help communities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Certified communities must demonstrate an understanding and preparedness for strategic planning, while displaying readiness in technological development to help new and existing businesses grow. Qualifying LCCs earn status in the program for five years, and are required to maintain community websites to market local development, which may include information on available sites and buildings and regional employment opportunities.
Recent partnerships have prioritized infrastructure and workforce development in Thayer County. The Deshler Community Fund (DCF), with support from the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF), leads an array of new and ongoing development projects; this includes, for example, recently installing new park benches and an electronic message sign on Main Street. The City and Chamber organizations work closely with the DCF board, which includes business owners, educators and civic-minded community leaders. Two senior high school students also serve on the board to provide youth-based input. DCF hosted a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student for internships in the summers of 2020 and 2021, which helped inspire the student to return to Deshler to own and operate a business after graduation.
In addition, DCF and the Hebron Community Fund are working with NCF on a “Dream Switch Project,” which challenges local leaders to share their decisions surrounding the choice of Deshler as a place to launch and build their careers. The collaborative project was designed to support young families who are on similar paths.
“Nebraska’s LCC Program encourages success in community development and business retention efforts, and building strong relationships in the process,” said LCC Program Director Kelly Gewecke. “Deshler’s business leaders who mentor young people are investing in Nebraska’s next generation, which in turn provides a great incentive to retain talent in our communities.”
Local employer Reinke Manufacturing received funding through Nebraska’s Developing Youth Talent Initiative in 2018 and 2019 — a program designed to spark engagement and awareness surrounding careers in manufacturing, IT and other STEM disciplines among middle schoolers. As part of this effort, Reinke collaborated with area public schools served by Nebraska’s Educational Service Unit No. 5 (ESU5) to create a STEM mobile learning lab that will reach an estimated 850 students. ESU5 serves 10 Nebraska school districts, including Deshler and Thayer Central.
Over the past several years, Deshler’s mayor has worked closely with youth through the creation of the local Youth Advisory Council (YAC). The group’s 4th through 12thgrade student members work with the city to share ideas for growth in their community. YAC’s recent Entrepreneur Challenge encouraged members to create innovative business proposals, which included a teen hangout center and recycled school costumes.
The Deshler Housing Authority promotes affordable housing opportunities, including family units and single bedroom apartments. The City’s partnership with Southeast Nebraska Development District provides additional support for homeowners through the DED-administered Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation and Rural Workforce Housing programs.
The Thayer County Economic Development Alliance (TCEDA) continues its efforts to educate voters on Nebraska’s Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (LB840) fund, which allows cities to support economic development projects through local sales tax dollars. The fund, which requires voter approval, would provide assistance for community improvement efforts, nuisance abatement work, and parks and recreation after an election in 2022. Ongoing efforts to build development opportunities in the Deshler area have complimented TCEDA’s involvement in the LCC program. “
TCEDA is proud that Deshler is the first Leadership Certified Community in Thayer County,” said TCEDA Director Carley Bruning. “This award shows that Deshler has done the work preparing them for growth and prosperity. Being certified will open conversations and opportunities to set them up for years of success and sustainability. We enjoyed being a part of the process, and applaud Deshler’s leaders for their unwavering focus to complete their LCC designation. The TCEDA team looks forward to continuing to work with Deshler in building their strong foundation and setting the stage for the future of their community, helping them conquer challenges, and showcasing their community for potential projects, residents and entrepreneurs.”