What is Economic Development?

Economic development is the creation of income. Creating jobs and career options for all ages and education levels helps communities grow and provides opportunities for young people to remain in or move to our communities or state.

Do you know how Arnold, Nebraska is growing great things? Well, here is the whole story:

The Arnold Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) is a 501(c)(3) corporation that was formed in 2002 with the primary goal of growing, supporting, and developing the village of Arnold, Nebraska, to enhance the quality of life for residents.

AEDC’s mission is to generate economic health and vitality in the Arnold community for the well-being of its citizens through activities directed at employers, employees, and business activities that can be correlated to creating and retaining good jobs, increasing population, and enhancing opportunity and prosperity.

In 2006, the Village of Arnold initiated a 15-year economic development plan that included establishing the Arnold Economic Development Program, which is funded by the proceeds from a 1 percent local sales and use tax (LB840 funds). At that time, AEDC was designated to administrator the LB840 funds including the loan and grant program. In addition, AEDC carries out a variety of activities that support and grow existing business, attract new capital investment, promote tourism, and develop community resources.

Where is the Arnold Economic Development Corporation growing great things in Arnold?

AEDC provides services to the Village of Arnold and the surrounding area. Arnold is a rural community of 597 residents located in Custer County in mid-Nebraska.

According to U.S. Census American Community Survey 2007-2011 data, the total population in the 69120 zip code is 928 individuals, including 157 children who are 14 years of age and younger. The majority of the population (98 percent) is white; 2.2 percent is more than one race (American Indian); and 1.8 percent is Hispanic.

The area’s population has decreased 36 percent from its peak in 1950. Much of this is due to the loss of manufacturing and business. Employment today (of civilian employed population 16 years and older) is primarily in agriculture (23.5 percent), education/healthcare/social services (19.1 percent), and retail trade (11 percent).
The area has experienced a significant loss of manufacturing since its peak, and only 2.6 percent of the population is now employed in what are generally higher paying manufacturing occupations. This change contributes to the fact that 18.4 percent of households earn $25,000 or less, and 35.2 percent earn $35,000 or less.

While the area has experienced a decline in the past decades, like many small communities across our country it is beginning to reverse this trend through the hard work of a dedicated community.

Three of Arnold’s recent accomplishments include:

  • Constructing a new 9,000 square foot Community Center that quickly become a community resource and now hosts a large percentage of the area’s activities.
  • Renovating the Arnold Theatre, which was built in 1924 but had closed in 1979 due to lack of funds. Today the fully renovated theatre boasts seating for 80, a high-def projector, retractable screen, and Dolby Surround Sound system.
  • One of the completed projects is the new playground project that is used by children living in Arnold as well as the surrounding area (69120 zip code).
  • Arnold is also home to an exemplary school system. Arnold public school was recently recognized as one of the top 25 schools in Nebraska; Arnold High School students have achieved ACT scores that were among the highest cumulative scores in Nebraska; and the high school offers state-of-the-art distance learning through partnerships with Nebraska universities and colleges for dual credit college courses.
  • AEDC works in concert with community efforts such as these through activities that support and grow existing business, attract new business and capital investment, and promote tourism to bring new visitors to our area.
  • We also undertake a variety of projects that contribute to enhancing the community’s assets.

What are Arnold’s current programs and recent accomplishments?

AEDC’s current programs and activities include:

  • Employing a part-time director to serve as a resource for local business and housing assistance and developing and serving on many public service projects.
  • Administering the LB840 Business Loan & Grant Program, which includes recruiting participants, assisting with applications, performing due diligence and underwriting, making recommendations to the Village Board, monitoring participants to ensure adherence to requirements, and payment collection.
  • Working on creating an updated website to include mobile devices. Also, currently maintaining the Arnold website which itself has recruited new residents and businesses
  • Developed and maintain the Facebook page and online Google-Ad marketing (the web site had over 100,000 site visitors in 2012)
  • Providing educational workshops and technical assistance to area businesses Sponsoring and promoting events that increase tourism in the area Undertaking beautification projects that enhance Arnold’s attractiveness.
  • Completing marketing and advertising projects that support community organizations and businesses Developed and maintain the Arnold Cemetery Website with private funding

AEDC’s accomplishments within the past six years include:

  • Making LB840 and revolving loans to 28 area businesses that totaled more than $180,000; and providing matching grants of nearly $44,000.
  • Funding a wind study of the Arnold area (exploring potential for wind farm) still available.
  • Worked with community partners to secure a $50,000.00 USDA grant to create a revolving loan fund that supports local businesses.
  • Purchased and installed street banners in the Arnold business district.
  • Developed a TV spot with air time for the Arnold public school; developing radio advertising for local businesses and community events.
  • Monthly radio spots with Custer County area radio station KCNI/KBBN promoting the theater, area events and local businesses.
  • Facilitated computer classes for the public; Quick books training for businesses; and advertising/marketing seminars for business owners.
  • Worked with Creighton School of Law to provide a seminar on corporations, and with the Mid Plains Center for Enterprise to provide a Business Plan Workshop
  • Supports Chamber with advertising for local events such as Kegs & Corks, Chili Cook off, Fourth of July, Housing Tour and Christmas Around Town.
  • Assisted with the development of two new area events: Arnold River Battle and The Devil’s Den Motorcycle Rally which are annual now and managed by local teams.
  • Research and apply for area grants for local projects

We have also continued to poise ourselves for future business recruitments by having all the proper programs in place and are constantly seeking/in the process of recruiting new businesses and new residents, but due to the nature of business and confidentiality, we cannot always divulge that information to the public. But we are making sure we’re on the radar for anyone seeking a new location for their business or a place to live.

Why do communities and states engage in economic development?

Economic development is the effort to keep communities viable through the inevitable changes we face year to year and generation to generation.

What are the priorities of the local/regional economic development programs?

Generally local and regional economic development focuses on the three priorities:

  1. existing business and industry,
  2. recruiting of new businesses through target marketing,
  3. assisting entrepreneurs with start up businesses.

What competitive advantages does Nebraska Provide?

Nebraska is attractive to companies for a variety of reasons including our central location in the US, our hardworking, well-educated workforce, low real estate and utility costs, and excellent infrastructure. Companies also like Nebraska because of our commitment to education. The University of Nebraska is a nationally recognized research institution and the state has one of the best public and private K-12 school systems. 

Why does Nebraska need economic development incentives?

In the mid-1980's Nebraska's economy and tax base were stagnant. The state's unemployment rate was nearly double what it is today and the manufacturing jobs were shrinking. Surrounding states were offering (and are offering) businesses financial incentives for businesses to relocate to their states. Not having incentives left Nebraska at a competitive disadvantage.

The Nebraska Legislature recognized the need to be nationally competitive in recruiting new business and retaining the existing employment and tax base. In 1987 the Legislature passed a performance-based economic development incentive program. The goal was, and still is, to promote the creation of good paying jobs in manufacturing, information and other economic sectors. An updated incentive program, the Nebraska Advantage, was passed in 2005.

Good communities are the basis for economic development and are the product that we sell.