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  • Where do candidates stand on issues
    facing our business community?

    County Board

    1. What is the #1 issue facing the Grand Island/Hall County area and what steps would you take to address this issue?

    Supervisor District #1

    Doug Lanfear
    The top issue in the coming years will be producing a budget which satisfies the needs of Hall County, at the current level, without increasing taxes. This period of flat, possibly negative, growth in valuations will have a serious effect on revenues. It must be recognized that property taxes are already high and are slowing Hall County’s economy. Last year we used inheritance tax money to cover the shortfall and will probably do the same this year, but we must be mindful of the push to elimninate inheritance taxes, so this cannot be viewed as a long-term option. In the hpast three budgets we found budget items which we could cut back or eliminate and there may still be comparable items remaining. There are inefficacies and unnecessary operations which can be reworked or eliminated. Finally, there should be no increase in employees, the county is up to full staff.

    David Ziola
    Budgets, for both the city and the county. Grand Island and Hall County can only expand and invest at a rate that is sustainable within the community. Annexing additional land and building new projects further away from the core of the business and residential centers of the city adds substantially to the utility service areas and roads that must be maintained and patrolled. This can put an immediate demand on our law enforcement, fire, and other emergency services that may need to respond to these additional areas with existing staff. As the regional area continues to expand, the number of personnel needed to serve those areas are not added at an equal and expedited rate to compensate for that additional growth. Employee costs and benefits are the number one driver in local government. They are a necessity, and yes, can be expensive. Citizens expect tax rates to be justified, fair and reasonable; employees want the best wages and benefits they believe they are entitled to. Departments alike want sufficient dollars to operate from year to year and sufficient funds to purchase and replace equipment.
    With the new metropolitan statistical area designation, many studies and comparables to set those salaries and pay-steps in department budgets have led to requests for increases in pay and benefits across the board over the last few years. Those additional dollars requested must come from somewhere. If additional tax receipts are not sufficient to support those increases in the eyes of the officials in charge of budget oversight, it can be quite the delicate balance for all involved. That challenge is to distribute and fairly divide those available funds, between the request for operational expenses, rising employee costs, and the individual departments’ ability to adequately provide the desired personal response, and even counter services, to the taxpayers and other customers at a time of reasonable convenience. Government must prioritize carefully if, when, and where those cost reductions must occur, and who they will most effect.

    Butch Hurst
    The major issue right now is the farm economy. The prices are low and taxes are high. I hope people understand that we are a farming community. That doesn’t mean that is all we have to offer, but our economy is dependent on our famers. When they are making more money and prices are good, that is good for all of us.
    I believe our school system is making some very bold moves right now. Not everyone is going to college, but everyone needs more education. That education might be the training of our young people in some type of a trade school. Let’s give them the ability to make a good living so they will stay in our area. I would just ask you the last time you had a plumber or an electrician come to your home. They may have never gone to college, but they have a trade that is badly needed. They will make a good income and they will have more money to spend on things like enjoyment and not just enough money to get by on till the next check arrives.
    We have other companies that I am sure would love to have some type of training facility here so they could get good quality workers and they would already be here.

    Supervisor District #3

    Dick Hartman
    To lower the taxes.

    Amber Schuppan
    I believe adequate housing is a huge issue for Grand Island and Hall County. The shortage of housing inhibits business from bringing in new employees. I would like to explore what government entities can do to streamline the process for developers to install infrastructure.

    Robert Humiston, Jr.
    No response

    Steve Johnson
    Clearly the number one issue in Hall county, is the fragility of the agricultural economy. The economic vitality of not only businesses, but individual family units within our region are directly impacted by the agricultural industry. We all know this, and, though county officials are limited in how we can affect these difficulties, the one thing that is within our control is that of local taxation. As a business owner for the last 40 plus years in Hall county, I have learned that we must always "live within our means". As a county supervisor, I would use great deliberation in funding those items which support the agricultural (and supporting business') needs while holding the line on spending in general. Efficiencies often do not find their way into the public sector; however, I would apply my own life lessons in business to discern between funding necessary improvements and those of individual want lists. Not a very exciting platform, but one that indeed matters!

    Robert Niemann
    I think the #1 issue facing Grand Island and Hall County is recruiting and maintain a qualified labor force. I think the City and the County should work together with the Chamber’s help to acquire and recruit the labor needed for Grand Island.

    Gayle Clark
    We do not have enough businesses that pay well. The majority of Hall County businesses are food and retail. All of which pay minimum wage or a little higher. We need to create incentives to bring new industry to Hall County whether it be through tax breaks, free or reduced-priced land to build on or incentives. Include requirements on potential businesses that they generate the promised jobs and economic growth – or pay back some of the subsidies. Ensure that they hire local residents and provide workforce training.
    Encourage growth by providing loans to qualified small businesses and non-profit organizations. Make new investments in existing facilities and/or equipment that would aid current community businesses. Offer tax credits, grants, loans, and tax exemptions to qualified community projects.
    Encourage more citizens to get involved by attending public meetings possibly held in the evening or on weekends.
    Supervisor District 5

    Jane Jeffries-Richardson
    I believe the number one issue facing Grand Island/Hall County today is balancing the budget/fiscal strength. Speaking from the county perspective, the last three-four years of balancing the budget have been difficult to say the least. The combination of flat or declining property tax revenues, along with large increases in our health insurance coverage (20-25% ea.yr) and also large increases in salaries due to our new designation of “Metropolitan Statistical Area” has made balancing the budget very tricky. Add to that unfunded state and federal mandates and it becomes almost impossible. Last year the county relied on the inheritance tax fund for the balancing act and that cannot become our regular practice. The county is trying to avoid operating with reduced workforce and therefore a decline in services offered. The county needs new tools to create revenue. The state inheritance tax must remain intact. Creative solutions in health insurance coverage will be considered, possibly on the benefits side provided to insureds. Hopefully an economic uptick is on the horizon as there appears to be no one single clear path to address this issue; however, a combination of several different steps could certainly help in the future.

    Scott Davison
    I think – from what I’m hearing - #1 issue is Board unity – people need to get along. And stop spending money that we don’t have. The solution would be open minded and more respect for other board members. Spend money only on things that have to be done until the tax revenue gets better. Right now, we are spending more money than we have. It’s going to catch up with us a few years down the road.

    Supervisor District 7

    Scott Arnold
    No response

    Ron Peterson
    In the short term, my number one issue is replacing the jobs being lost later this year from the moving of the Nebraska Veterans Home to Kearney. Long term, we must provide affordable housing and an employable workforce for economic growth.
    As a member of the County Board I would work hard to keep the tax levy at a level that would encourage new industry to consider locating in Hall County. It should also help existing companies to invest in their future right here.
    As a community leader it is important to work in conjunction with local and state officials to lobby for key legislation at the state level that would provide the best environment for economic growth. I could be also be a communication link between the taxpayers and elected officials as local officials move forward with the redevelopment of the Veterans Home Land Project.

    Peggy J. Pape
    The number one issue facing the Grand Island/Hall County area is the burden of extremely high property taxes without the economic growth in prosperity to offset it. We have baby boomers who are feeling more and more pinched by higher and higher property taxes along with first time house buyers who cannot find an existing house they can afford and certainly cannot afford to build a new one. We need to seriously work together with all of our resources in order to address these issues for our community. All solutions need to be considered and use our differences to work out the best solution rather than create conflicts.

    2. With the low unemployment rate in the area, what role, if any, should city and county government play in ensuring an adequate workforce is available to meet employers’ needs?

    Supervisor District 1

    Doug Lanfear
    As the health of the business community is important to Hall County it is only right that the county board should support anything which could help local employers. There is nothing the county is currently doing which could impact the workforce, but the county board must be open to supporting any opportunities which might come along. I believe it is important to find ways to encourage our young people to stay in this area. I applaud the school board for creating the “success academy” and the “career pathways institute” which provide the way to better paying jobs and needed skills. Jobs paying better than minimum wage are necessary to increasing available employees. Two other areas basic to attracting new employees to the area are increasing affordable housing and entertainment. In these two areas the county might be of help.

    David Ziola
    Promotion and advertising of what our communities have to offer is a priority. But it is just not about the jobs and opportunities we offer. Our housing availability must keep pace with any growth and expansion proposed. Another often-overlooked aspect of a community that is deemed important to people and a draw for many of them looking to relocate is quality of life opportunities and a wide range of seasonal events and annual special attractions attributed to an area. Grand Island and Hall County realizing this has historically invested it these ventures whether it is the hike and bike trail system, Stuhr Museum, Hartland Public Shooting Park or the State Fair Grounds and buildings including the Heartland Event Center.

    Butch Hurst
    In order to get well qualified people with our low unemployment rate, you are going to have to raise wages, benefits, or have a good working environment. Once you get a high quality worker the businesses will want to keep them. It is much cheaper if a business is not always hiring or trying to replace their workforce. In order to get a good worker, you will have to ask the local employers what are they needing and then we will need to get sites up and running for the training of these people.

    Supervisor District 3

    Dick Hartman
    Recruit some good people. Bring in the people who can get the job done.

    Amber Schuppan
    I think we are on a great path to solve this issue with the implementation of the Academy at Grand Island Senior High. There has already been success with Career Pathways and this will expand into other industries keeping our young people here giving us that strong workforce. Housing is still an issue for our workforce. I believe the role of city and county government could be being more aggressive with substandard areas in the county and explore funding and grants provide by through the State for re-development projects as an alternative to TIF.

    Robert Humiston, Jr.
    No response

    Steve Johnson
    Unfortunately, county government specifically is limited in action items to address this very valid concern. That is not to say that we as a community cannot do better. As a business owner I readily see the benefit of the career pathways institute and applaud the GIPS innovative efforts. I would utilize my role of a community leader to lend support to existing efforts such as the GIPS skills and success academies which "catch" students at an early age and help redirect them toward a productive future. (Ironically if we could help stop the self-destructive traits within our young and growing population, and re-direct them toward healthy community participation, we might just find a growing workforce and a declining jail population!) Myriad numbers of other fine programs exist within our community, and I would gladly serve as a county liaison to such community betterment organizations.

    Robert Niemann
    I think the City and County, and again with the Chamber’s help, should stage yearly job fairs to recruit and acquire qualified employees to the Grand Island workforce.

    Gayle Clark
    It is very important for city and county officials to take an active interest in its workforce. For my part, I will ensure that more consideration will be given to local contractors and businesses for Hall County projects before looking outside of our community. It is not by chance that our unemployment rate is low. Hall County has several programs already in place that are working hard to ensure a trained workforce. I would consider it an honor to be able to help in any way that I could.

    Supervisor District 5

    Jane Jeffries-Richardson
    The city and county should take an active role to ensure adequate workforce can be attracted and retained in order to meet employers’ needs. Grand Island/Hall County needs to be attractive to potential employees. Quality of life issues need to be improved. One way this could be done is by better utilizing our events center and the state fair buildings. Citizens and potential employees who are considering relocating to our area, need quality entertainment and not only during the county and state fairs. Workforce planning could also be done with more efficient utilization of CPI (Career Pathways Institute) and possibly CCC (Central Community College). Employers need to be aware of the highly trained individuals who are attending and graduating from these schools when considering sufficient employees with the correct skill set required for the position. Partnerships and internships with these schools need to continue to be improved.

    Scott Davison
    Pursue any opportunities for any new businesses and that would, in turn, bring the workforce into the area.

    Supervisor District 7

    Scott Arnold
    No response

    Ron Peterson
    I would work in conjunction with the education leaders of the community, helping promote our Community College and the Career Pathways Institute as vehicles to educate future workers. As a county board member the development of affordable housing is another key component that should be encouraged. Again by keeping our budget under control, housing costs should be lower. While the County Board is not directly involved in all aspects, we can be a voice for the taxpayer to those who are responsible

    Peggy J. Pape
    City and county government needs to hold the line on spending and find ways to conserve while finding creative ways to market our community to businesses to stimulate economic growth and in the long term broaden our tax base. We also need to work harder to consider the housing solutions needed to attract workers to our area while at the same time preserving and marketing the quality of life in our community. This task absolutely requires the board to work together as a team for the good of the citizens whom we represent no matter our personal differences.

    3. Which Grow Grand Island initiative(s) do you feel will have the greatest impact on the quality of life in Grand Island/Hall County and aid in the attraction of businesses and employees to our area?

    Supervisor District 1

    Doug Lanfear
    The two “Grow Grand Island Initiatives” at the top of my list would be “Image” and community assets”. This thinking comes from articles published in Governing Magazine. There has been a great deal of research on how the image projected by a city, effects investment by local business and perhaps more important, how image draws new businesses to an area. Closely tied to image is the assets a community can offer. To me, “assets” covers a broad range from shopping to fire and police protection, but I feel the entertainment factor will become increasingly important. I attended the annual meeting of the “Railside” people and was greatly impressed by what they are accomplishing. They are young adults who are creating an environment in downtown that increasingly appeals to young adults.

    David Ziola
    Investment and expansion of existing businesses and the entrepreneurial spirt and drive are the two that I believe will be responsible in sustaining our county for the near future. The objective is always to attract new skill-based businesses that can offer above average wages and benefits to the area. Though this is always the goal, this level of new business and manufacturing companies do not present themselves often enough. However, when it does, city and county leaders, along with the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce and others, must commit to work together in unison to promote our communities and ourselves as a place they would want to do business with. One of the gems in our community and in central Nebraska is our Central Community Colleges. They offer many courses that are tailored to prepare anyone with many skills, learning tools, and the experience needed to transition into several diverse career opportunities within Grand Island and surrounding townships.

    Butch Hurst
    The things that I like best of all for Grow Grand Island is the downtown music. I love live music and this is a great time to have bands for around the state come and perform. With music and having a good time comes hunger. Just like the old Ethnic Festival that was held in Grand Island in the past, food is a great bridge for all our various cultures in the Grand Island area. We may not always understand someone’s culture, but good food and good times can sure make a good start.

    Supervisor District 3

    Dick Hartman
    I think that one thing we need to do is get young people to stay in GI and take a look at school systems that get kids to stay here.

    Amber Schuppan
    I believe the Community Assets Pillar is the most effective for improving the quality of life. Air Service is key for attaining events for our State Fair Facilities and assisting businesses and their employees.

    Robert Humiston, Jr.
    No response

    Steve Johnson
    While each of the individual initiatives contribute greatly, the development of a pro-growth culture for entrepreneurs holds much promise. That coupled with a continued investment in our workforce development have the best chance in attracting and retaining young and bright minds within our community as well as showcasing our fine workforce for potential business investors and developers. Of course, the recent revitalization efforts in our down-town corridor, add to the progressive posture exhibited within our community. The redevelopment of the veteran’s home site makes for a plethora of innovative and community expansive ideas. These all lend to perhaps the most important contribution that city and county leaders can provide, and that is a "can do" spirit of co-operation, and willingness to do the hard work of forward thinking vision casting and infrastructure development.

    Robert Niemann
    Helping existing small businesses grow, also developing the business base for large and small businesses to come to Grand Island and be successful.

    Gayle Clark
    I believe that utilizing and enhancing community assets will have the greatest impact on the quality of life in Grand Island/Hall County. On top of the many wonderful events that Grand Island is already known for we need to encourage discussion and consideration for things that might seem off the wall such as maybe having open-air country and rock festivals at different times throughout the year. Maybe collaborate with local farmers and have fields designated for the festivals to include local vendors available for a fee to those that want to be more involved in the festivities. Definitely keep our hotels and stores filled with people attending events all year long.  Develop more plays and dinner theaters. We could create an indoor/outdoor water facility for year-round enjoyment for both locals and visitors.  Include Stuhr museum and their wonderful classes in a week-long festival with music, dancing, food, arts and crafts, and activities. Inspire Hall County to be the entertainment destination for families.

    Supervisor District 5

    Jane Jeffries-Richardson
    The Grow Grand Island Initiatives are as follows: workforce, downtown/ Railside, entrepreneurship, education and affordable housing. As a member of the Grow Grand Island Executive Committee I have seen the impact some of these various initiatives have made at both the city and county levels. Through my personal experience, I believe the greatest impact on the quality of life, and the attraction of businesses in Grand Island/Hall County, comes through the education and workforce initiatives - as I feel these two initiatives go hand in hand.
    If Grand Island/Hall County could somehow attract a four year college, the workforce options would be greatly improved. This would not only happen upon graduation of individuals, but also by also creating a large pool of students living here who may be interested in some sort of part time job or internship. For Grand Island/Hall County to be competitive in attracting new families and business, access to postsecondary education is imperative. Higher education brings with it numerous potential benefits to a community, including, but not limited to: economic activity, a growing tax base, higher paying jobs and a better quality of life. If a four-year institution is not feasible, perhaps some sort of partnership with Central Community College to grow and expand their offerings if possible.

    Scott Davison
    I’m seeing in Grand Island and also my hometown area a lot of affordable housing being built. I’m hearing from a lot of friends that they can’t afford rent any more. Affordable housing is most important. This is why new businesses that pay more to their employees is important.

    Supervisor District 7

    Scott Arnold
    No response

    Ron Peterson
    As you can tell from my previous answers, the growth initiatives of education and housing will play a key part in attracting businesses and employees. While the County Board will have a limited role in those areas, controlling our spending of tax dollars will have a long-term impact. We need to get back to doing well the things that government was intended to do and limit the expansion of new programs. I look forward to be a voice for the taxpayers of Hall County if I am elected to the County Board and promise to be a supporter of business and education. As a parent of four adult children and with eight grandchildren, I understand the importance that those two initiatives will have on the future of Hall County.

    Peggy Pape
    The image of the Grand Island/Hall County area will be crucial to attracting businesses and employees our community. The other four initiatives businesses, entrepreneurs, workforce and community assets need to be encouraged to more define this image and work toward a final marketable product. I am a Nebraska native born in Lincoln County and have lived in Hall County for 30 years but before I moved here I lived in many cities around the country. One of the main reasons my husband and I returned to Nebraska was for the quality of life in order to raise our children with the values we were raised with. This quality of life is what we have to offer new businesses along with their employees.

    City Council

    1. What is the #1 issue facing the Grand Island/Hall County area and what steps would you take to address this issue?

    Ward 2

    Clay Schutz
    I believe the #1 issue facing the area right now is the continuing struggle for both City Council and Hall County board of being able to meet all the demands placed on our local government, and how to meet those demands without further increasing taxes. That said, it is vital that we as a community continue to grow and create business opportunities in order to grow our economy and not be as heavily reliant on property tax as we currently are. If elected to the City Council I assure you that I will work to make informed decisions regarding spending and the most effective use of our tax dollars. Without micromanaging, I am someone who is willing to ask tough questions, examine alternatives, and work with all parties involved to create a budget that meets the need of our residents yet is respectful of the tax burden that currently exists.
    Jerry Poels
    I believe public safety is the #1 issue, but by no means is that the only issue facing Grand Island. With crime rates going up, the city eliminated 6 public safety positions to relieve some of the strain on its stressed budget. Personal safety is a basic need that must be met for the city to function well. The city’s spending habits, particularly when they are perceived as detrimental to public safety, need to be changed. As it is now, those habits are pointing to the typical solution: raise property/sales taxes to balance the budget. But, as noted in the Grow Grand Island’s Business Development Strategy survey from October 2014, 54.6% of business owners, executives and managers, believe that (higher) local taxes are a major disadvantage to existing and prospective new business.
    The city has spent millions on projects touted as ‘beneficial’ for the city, the developers and business owners, but are in fact, limited in their benefits to the average taxpayer / home owner.
    One of my biggest concerns about TIF projects is when they are used for housing projects. The property taxes assessed against the new homes, property taxes that should be paying for police and fire protection, for street repair and maintenance, for teachers and classrooms, are instead being paid to the developer/business owner. The city has deferred millions of dollars of property taxes under the guise of economic development. Unfortunately, the city’s largess to business, results in higher and higher taxes for residents and visitors alike. This city of 50,000, is spending like it has a population of 60,000, and tax rates, whether they be sales, property, use, or occupation taxes, become an oppressive load for everyone else.
    In taking a look at the TIF projects, I believe that the city needs to reduce it use of TIF and the associated time frame for recovering TIF funds. If you asked business owners, executives and managers about making a capital expenditure that would not have a Return On Investment for 15 years, they would agree that would be not in the best interests of their company. Yet, according to the “growth” advocates, if the city waits 15 years for ROI on Tax Increment Financed projects, it has made a smart decision. How can that be?
    Businesses, that game the system are also part of the problem. Structured Solutions was a $600,000 debacle. Skagway, declared blighted, was, after much renovation, declared blighted once again a couple of years later.
    To put public safety to the fore, the city needs to re-negotiate current TIF policy. It should require proof of means for TIF applicants. It should shorten the TIF period to no more than 5 years instead of the current 15. The city needs to re-evaluate its spending habits on infrastructure and the expensive studies that precede them. If this city will practice fiscal responsibility, it can provide the funds so that our public safety staff is fully manned and able to fill all assigned tasks and still provide emergency services.

    Ward 5
    James Duff
    The main challenge we currently face is not enough revenue and not good enough expense control. All other issues we face stem from this. Our city council needs to return to a cohesive team that works together and brainstorms to find creative and meaningful solutions rather than its current state of simply being a voting body. I plan to work in a positive way with city departments, municipalities, chamber, CVB, fonner, the private sector and the community to find new ways to capture revenues and ways to control expenses.
    I print out and read thru the schedule of bills for each city council meeting. I read it page by page, line by line, every single expense and always find questionable expenses that I believe could be better controlled. I also firmly believe we need to do a way better job of working to bring in entertainment, concerts, shows and events that will bring people into Grand Island and spend money. Lastly I will work to end the abuse and ensure we are giving out tax incentives only to projects that are creating real jobs and providing real economic benefit.

    Michelle Fitzke
    A balanced budget is the #1 issue and keeping it balance for years to come. We will need to determine where to get the revenue from without increasing the property taxes in Grand Island. This will take some creative budgeting ideas on where we can come up with the revenue to make this happen. It’s not about cutting position but what items do we cut out of the budget that we possibly could do without.

    2. With the low unemployment rate in the area, what role, if any, should city and county government play in ensuring an adequate workforce is available to meet employers’ needs?

    Ward 2
    Clay Schutz
    As a small business owner, I believe it is absolutely essential that city and county government do what they can to ensure our employers have an adequate workforce available. I believe that means collaborating with GIPS, GINW and all other educational institutions in the area (including higher education) to assure that our students are ready to enter college or the workforce upon graduation. We also need to take whatever steps are necessary and realistic to recruit people to Grand Island/Hall County to meet workforce needs as well. However, any investments we make in this area need to be done on a data-driven basis.

    Jerry Poels
    The city and county’s role in workforce recruitment should be limited. I think the city’s support for Central Community College and College Park is good. Tech schools and business courses are extremely important for preparing a prospective workforce. Having said that, I believe that a lack of a four year college, is a detriment to Grand Island.

    Ward 3

    Clarence Stephens
    No response

    Jason Conley
    No response

    Ward 4

    Mitchell Nickerson
    No response

    Jose Ramirez
    No response

    Ward 5

    James Duff
    Cities should certainly work with and support any programs and activities that provide training for our market. Creating public and private partnerships is a great thing, but we must be careful that the city/tax payers are not financing extensive programs. We should work with and encourage businesses to provide incentives and training that not only attract but focus on employee retention. Especially at higher skilled positions/industries.

    Michelle Fitzke
    We need to continue working with our school system to get kids to study or have hands on training like we currently do through CPI. Also work on having the Quality of Life and affordable housing to keep them in Grand Island.

    3. Which Grow Grand Island initiative(s) do you feel will have the greatest impact on the quality of life in Grand Island/Hall County and aid in the attraction of businesses and employees to our area?

    Ward 2

    Clay Schutz
    Grow Grand Island has recently identified Workforce Development as the number one issue to be addressed in the next five years. It is hard to argue with that, given the fact that we currently have a very low unemployment rate, and an adequate workforce is essential in attracting and maintaining business in the area.

    Jerry Poels
    Grow Grand Island’s goals of enhancing the community’s image, of assisting entrepreneurs and expanding businesses are commendable. I think that those are wonderful goals, but I also believe that quality of life issues are poorly represented by them.
    For instance, why should we have to drive to Kearney or Hastings to attend a four year college, to attend a Symphony or to visit a Grand park? In Grand Island, we cut the budget for our city parks. Where in Grand Island is there a park comparable to Yanney Park in Kearney, or Brickyard Park in Hastings? To me those are Grand Examples of quality of life endeavors and they should not be omitted from any “Goal Overture”.
    Grand Island, I think we can do much better, as the city moves forward, by initiating growth that restores safety to the community and a vision that brings peace to the soul.

    Ward 3

    Clarence Stephens
    No response

    Jason Conley
    No response

    Ward 4

    Mitchell Nickerson
    No response
    Jose Ramirez
    No response

    Ward 5

    James Duff
    A growing city is a great thing! Unfortunately, some of our economic development initiatives hurt Grand Island. We continue to finance private investment and development, projects that we all know will happen regardless, at the expense of much needed increased property tax revenue. There are so many comprehensive results-based studies that prove these programs do not help a city (only the receiver), and the state of our general fund is further proof. Our incentive programs should be solely used for a business, whether it is attracting a new business or existing businesses, that are creating real, good paying jobs that will attract and bring people into Grand Island and have a real and positive effect on our economy.
    We do need to offer incentives for businesses, but we must be responsible and not ‘blight’ areas that truly are not. We must have individuals who will really look and honestly decide if a project is truly deserving of tax incentives that will provide a real benefit to our community/economy. We must work to find other options for financing other than Grand Islands current go to, our tax revenue.

    Michelle Fitzke
    All five of the Grow Grand Island pillars are very important. I feel the Existing Business, Image and Workforce will help attract businesses and employees to Grand Island. Like I have stressed before we have to have a safe, clean and welcoming city. We have to have a city that folks are proud to call home.
  • Grand Island Welcomes 1,592 Members
    of our Future Workforce

    Read Grand Island Independent Story

    This past week, 1,592 of this state's brightest young minds participated in the SkillsUSA Nebraska Conference at the Heartland Events Center-Fonner Park complex.

    Students competed in 141 contests from over 100 different areas of career and technical education


    Here's just a taste of some of the various competitions held: 3-D Visualization, Automotive Service Technology, Carpentry, Criminal Justice, Culinary Arts, Diesel Equipment Technology, Electrical Wiring, Interactive App and Gaming Design, Medical Math, Nurse Assisting, Precision Machining Technology, Robotics, TV Production, Web Design and Welding.

    There were even competitions for extemporaneous speaking, community service and job interviews.




    What is SkillsUSA? It is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.

    Many industries today face a shortage of skilled workers, and SkillsUSA offers a way to help solve this problem. SkillsUSA complements technical skill training with instruction in the employability skills that make a well-rounded worker and citizen. It's not just about technical work, either. SkillsUSA also focuses on a student's soft skills, such as leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development.


    That's exactly why your Chamber of Commerce fought to make Grand Island the home of this event two years ago.

    We focus on the development of the workforce in Grand Island.

    We hope that by introducing these young, talented future members of our workforce to both our community and our businesses that they'll consider Grand Island when they decide where they want to live, work and raise their families.

  • Exciting News! Grand Island has two Opportunity Zones


    Click here to read story in The Independent

    Grand Island just gained an important tool to help attract new investments and job opportunities, according to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts.

    Ricketts announced Monday that the United States Department of the Treasury had granted approval of Opportunity Zones nominated by the State of Nebraska.

    There are two Opportunity Zones within Grand Island. One Opportunity Zone stretches from Highway 281 to North Broadwell Avenue. This tract will have a significant impact on the Veteran’s Legacy Project.

    The second Opportunity Zone stretches from West Stolley Park Road to North Front Street.

    “Grand Island was excited to receive great news about receiving two opportunity zones for our community,” said Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Johnson. “Kudos to the Grand Island Team (City of Grand Island, Economic Development, Chief Construction and Development, and Chamber) for getting this important development tool in our community.”

    The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 created the Opportunity Zones program to spur economic growth by supporting new investment.

    Said Ricketts of the Opportunity Zones: “This announcement builds on the positive news we’ve seen from companies from Nelnet to Wal-mart, who are reinvesting their tax cuts into their workforce through higher wages and bonuses. Non of this would have been possible without the great work of Nebraska’s federal delegation, which unanimously supported the tax relief bill.”

    ‘Opportunity Funds’ are going to be used to spur economic growth in the designated zones. Parties who invest in these funds can benefit from tax incentives, such as deferrals on capital gains tax.

    Said U.S. Senator Deb Fischer on the announcement: “For the past two weeks, I’ve been traveling across Nebraska and hearing about the positive proceeds from tax reform. Nebraskans are excited; they have more money in their pockets and many businesses are raising wages and giving workers bonuses. The designation of these opportunity zones is another good result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which helps continue the pattern of economic growth in our local communities.”

    Said U.S. Senator Ben Sasse: “Nebraskans believe in dignity and in community. We want to see every neighborhood succeed and we want to tackle poverty with opportunity. Washington has a long way to go but Congress took an important step by including Opportunity Zones in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

    “It’s simple,” Sasse continued. “We want to celebrate the American Dream in every zip code by expanding investments in economically distressed communities.”

    U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith said that the goal of the Opportunity Zones is to “ensure every American benefits from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

    “We would like to thank our federal delegation for their work in passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which made the opportunity zones program a reality,” said Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Dave Rippe. “We’re eager to begin working with our communities to harness this program to its full potential to grow Nebraska. We also appreciate the support of the numerous local leaders who submitted program applications. Their commitment to the economic well-being of their communities is an invaluable asset to our state.”

    For more information, visit opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/opportunity-zones/

  • Over 800 4th grade students
    participate in Ag Day

    The Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce’s Agricultural Committee hosted over 800 4th graders for Ag Day on Tuesday, March 27th, at Fonner Park. 

    The students, which came from 17 Grand Island or area schools, got a hands-on experience with Nebraska’s top economic engine: agriculture.

    We are thankful for our local media for outstanding coverage of this event.

    First, please read this wonderful article from Robert Pore featuring photos from Barrett Stinson about Ag Day.

    Robert also provided some live video from the event on his Twitter feed:

     

     

    NTV's Steve White also provided some live coverage of the day:


    Here was NTV's report of the day:

                                                                                             

    The educational experience our Agricultural Committee provided couldn’t have been possible without the following sponsors: Ag-Express Electronics, Agricultural Services, Aurora Cooperative, Bank of Doniphan, Bosselman Energy, Central Community College, Central Nebraska Regional Airport, Countryman Associates, Cornerstone Bank, Doane University, Equitable Bank, Farm Credit Services of America, First National Bank, Five Points Bank, General Collection, Graham Tire, The Saddle Club, Green Line Equipment, H & R Block, Heritage Bank, Home Federal Bank, Hooker Brothers Construction Company, Jerry’s Sheet Metal, Nebraska Truck Center, Northwest Public Schools, Nova-Tech, Orscheln Farm & Home, Stoltenberg Irrigation, Syngenta, T&E Cattle Company, Union Bank & Trust, Wells Fargo and Western Edge.

  • What a night!

    Nearly 500 were in attendance for our 2018 Annual Meeting March 15 at Riverside Golf Club, and it truly was a memorable night for the Grand Island business community! 

    We honored recipients of the Hall of Fame award, Small Business of the Year, the Outlier Award and the Richard Good Distinguished Service Award. In addition, the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce's Top 35 Under 35 was also recognized.

    We are grateful for the presence of Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, who helped us congratulate each of the award winners! We also extend a special thank you to our main event sponsors: First National Bank, the Nebraska State Fair, NorthWestern Energy, Principal and Dinsdale Automotive.

    Hall of Fame Award: Century 21/Da-Ly Realty
    Da-Ly Realty was started in 1961 by two local businessmen as a real estate and insurance agency. Through the next four decades, ownership passed to several new partners until 2008 when Jeff Reed took the role. That same year, Da-Ly Realty affiliated with the Century 21 brand. That affiliation boosted Da-Ly Realty into a new realm, and today, the business captures 49 percent of the real estate market in Grand Island. Currently 45 independent contractors are associated with Century 21/Da-Ly Realty, up more than 150 percent from 2008.

    Small Business of the Year Award: GIX Logistics
    GIX Logistics’ management team sat down five years ago and made it their mission to be the best freight brokerage company in the country. Now, they are one of the most rapidly growing third-party logistics companies in the nation since starting in 2006. GIX Logistics has a carrier database composed of 15,000 reliable carrier companies who ship a variety of different loads across the 48 contiguous states and parts of Canada. It also has access to over 225,00 pieces of equipment to deal with any shipping arrangement.

    Richard Good Distinguished Service Award: Pam Lancaster
    Pam Lancaster has served more than 20 years on the Hall County Board of Supervisors, including an unprecedented number of successive one-year terms as Board Chair. As a County Board Supervisor, Pam participates in a number of County committees, including: Corrections Steering, Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant, Midland Area Ageny on Aging, Personnel, Senior Citizens, and Union Negotations. In 2005, she was named the Grand Island Independent’s Woman of the Year.



    Outlier Award: The Grand Foundation
    The Grand Foundation is 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates the Grand Theatre in downtown Grand Island. Governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, the Grand Foundation exists to provide arts, entertainment and social interaction, as well as preserve the last historic movie palace in Grand Island. The Grand Foundation, which was formed in the summer of 2004 by a group of downtown business leaders, has also hosted town hall events.



    READ MORE





  • The following individuals have been named the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce's Top 35 Under 35 for 2018!

    Ibby Allan, Green Line Equipment
    Sarah Arthur, Hornady Manufacturing
    Bianca Ayala, Grand Island Public Schools
    Dr. Rachel Brown-McDonald, Cottonwood Dental
    Grady Erickson, Mayer, Burns & Koenig Law Firm
    Andy Gdowski, Equitable Bank
    Jenna Grenier, Lutz
    Bethany Guzinski, Wood Bros. Realty
    Jessica Hanson, Cottonwood Dental
    Dr. Tyler Hanson, Eyecare Professionals
    Phil Hranac, Edward Jones
    Sarah Koch, Heartland CASA
    Shane Labenz, CMBA Architects
    Cole Larsen, Chief Buildings
    Mitch Maire, Cobler Chiropractic
    Erin McMillan, CHI Health St. Francis
    Jana Meyer, Essential Personnel Inc.
    Ashley Millard, Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services
    Keith Mingus, Five Points Bank
    Adam Musich, Active Family Chiropractic
    Jacqui Nordstrom, Rabo Agrifinance
    Rachael O’Callaghan, Beavercreek Marketing
    Bonnie Oltean, Heartland CASA
    Raece Paulsen, Nebraska Truck Center
    Mark Porter, 10/11 News
    Michael Porter, Wells Fargo Bank
    Cody Raile, Feel Fit
    Jimmy Reed, Century 21 Daly Realty
    JR Rother, Bosselman Enterprises
    Josh Smidt, Hornady Manufacturing
    Dr. CJ Stec, Stec Cosmetic & Family Dentistry
    Joseph Stump, Almquist, Maltzahn, Galloway & Luth
    Kelsey Trausch, Surgery Group of Grand Island
    Kelly Wilson, GI Area Economic Development
    Mallory Zelasney, State of Nebraska District 9 Probation

  • Fresh Thyme 'unique' store for Grand Island

    Fresh Thyme officially opened this morning at 7 a.m., as brave shoppers lined up in the sub-freezing temperatures to earn a free bag of groceries.

    Needless to say, that’s a worthy example of the excitement surrounding Grand Island’s newest store.

    There were also well over 100 people who attended last night’s ribbon cutting, with hundreds more filing in to take part in a sneak-peak event hosted by Fresh Thyme.

    What they saw was this: a fully-stocked, brightly-lit produce section that covered almost a third of the store; a butcher shop featuring fresh cut meats and seafood that’s flown in daily; barrels of bulk items ranging from flax seeds to locally-roasted coffee beans; loaves of artisan bread; well-organized rows of grocery items running parallel to the freezer section; a huge selection of beers and wines; on-the-go meal options; Earth-friendly health products, and so much more.

    All of that is aligned with Fresh Thyme’s mission: “To improve the way our communities eat by offering fresh and healthy food at amazing values - all in a vibrant and fun shopping environment...”

    Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Johnson said that makes Fresh Thyme a ‘unique’ store for Grand Island.

    “We have a regional draw of about 250,000 people who count on Grand Island to provide the product and services they need. And the only we can do that is if we have a unique array of products and services available,” she said. “Fresh Thyme really fits that bill. Thank you Fresh Thyme for making the decision to locate to Grand Island.”

    READ MORE HERE

     

Contact

Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce
309 West Second Street
Post Office Box 1486
Grand Island, NE 68802-1486
Phone: 308.382.9210
Fax: 308.382.1154
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