At the March Hebron city council meeting, council members chose to move forward with the leadership certification process as part of the Certified Leadership Community Program.
Jeremy Voss, Thayer County Economic Development director, as well as several ECAP volunteers presented the opportunity to the Hebron city council as well as to officials from Bruning, Chester and Deshler.
At the time of this week’s publication, both Bruning and Hebron chose to move forward with the application process.
According to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development website, the purpose of the program is to “provide a solid framework for communities to identify capacity, stimulate focused planning, and utilize technology to provide a strong foundation to meet the challenges of the future.”
If communities finish the application process, it will open doors for them to apply for grants for projects that could help to revitalize their towns.
Currently, there are only four communities that have received the NDED Leadership Community Designation: Central City, Madison, Neleigh and Tecumseh.
“The [application] process is rather intense, but we have been planning on achieving this for awhile, so we have set up ourselves very well,” said Voss.
First, a community assessment is needed. This was done last year in a county wide ECAP survey.
Next, a current comprehensive plan and strategic plan must be made. In the past, some communities paid an outside organization to create these plans.
“We are proposing that we, as a county, can do this without any cost as long as we have the volunteers, an intrepid organization, and the authority and assistance from the applying city or village,” said Voss. “We have the volunteers and TCEDA will fill it out. We just need the support from the communities.”
Last, there must be a write up of the specific services the community provides.
Once each task is completed, the community will be designated as an NDED Certified Leadership Community and will be presented a certificate. A press release will also be issued.
According to the NDED website, the designation is good for five years as long as the community website and information is kept up to date.
There is also opportunity to be awarded up to 75 extra points when a community applies for the Downtown Revitalization CDBG program through NDED. This will also strengthen other applications with the community’s strong citizen participation as a result of the Leadership Designation.
The criteria for the four communities (Hebron, Deshler, Chester and Bruning) in Thayer County encouraged by TCEDA and ECAP volunteers was based off the ECAP survey results. Those with the highest percentage of responses were asked to participate because the application requires a mandate from the public and these four towns provided enough responses to have such a mandate.
“We hope that this program will extend into the other communities later, but we will have to draw up another community survey for them,” said Voss.
ECAP volunteers, all from different towns, have also been active in planning for this opportunity.
“The ECAP process has shown a need for some infrastructure and main street revitalization. After several public meetings the group felt as if the best way to get these done is with State grants,” said Voss. “And the best way to get these grants is to become a Leadership Community. So, the ECAP participants have given this as the direction they would like to go. Additionally, they will be assisting the communities and TCEDA in speaking to the councils, the write-ups, and information gathering. The great thing about this group is that they represent several communities and will be working on the projects for all the communities, not just their own.”
As for the projects and planning to come from this process, the goals are ultimately up to the communities.
“Some of these grants have been used for subdivision infrastructure, water systems and highway development,” said Voss. “Others have used them specifically for main street rehab. It is really up to the community, but the funds are more likely to be awarded if we get the Leadership Community Designation.”
For more information on the leadership application process, visit www.neded.org.