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  • WelcomeGrand Island, Nebraska — a community with strong ties to our history and an even stronger focus on our future. Grand Island is the fourth largest city in Nebraska, with an estimated population of 49,989.The community also serves residents in much of rural Nebraska including an area of over 20,000 square miles with an estimated population of over 200,000. Incorporated in 1872, Grand Island has a rich history reflected today in the stability of the community and the outstanding quality of life for its residents.

    The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce welcomes you to our web site where you’ll find a variety of information about our community, our businesses and industry.

    To address the need for a trained and prepared workforce, the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce led a community initiative resulting in the development and creation of the Career Pathways Institute. A collaborative effort involving Grand Island Public Schools, Central Community College and the business community, the mission of Career Pathways Institute is to prepare motivated learners for career pathways that lead to employment and continued learning.

    Your Grand Island Chamber is proud to be a partner in Grand Island’s growth and prosperity. Your Grand Island Chamber spearheaded efforts to bring the Nebraska State Fair to Grand Island.  New venue, new facilities, and a renewed sense of pride in what Grand Island is. This is just the beginning.

    The Grand Island Chamber is proud to play an important role in defining what Grand Island is and will become. The Grand Island Chamber — Direction for Business.

  • Grow Grand Island

    ggiGrow Grand Island Implementation Leaders met on Thursday, April 16 to set the schedule for future meetings for all 39 recommendations. These recommendations were the result of research carried out by Market Street Services, Inc. and Design Workshop, Inc. and the input of thousands from the community. The Implementation Leaders reviewed baseline benchmarks for the recommendations encompassed by six overarching goals which are: advancing job creation; elevating standards of living; improving talent attraction and retention; advancing educational attainment; increasing volunteerism and engagement; and helping existing businesses grow. Specific targets, to be achieved by the year 2020, will be established for each of these goals. If you are interested in serving on one of the implementation committees, fill out the sign up sheet below and return to cjohnson@gichamber.com or nickis@grand-island.com

    » Phase I: Competitive Assessment
    » Phase II: Target Sector Analysis
    » Phase III: Business Development Strategy
    » Phase IV: Implementation Plan
    » Grow Grand Island and Grander Vision Merge
    » Sign Up Sheet

    About Grow Grand Island - A Grander Vision for the Heartland: The Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation and Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered together to hire an economic development firm to create a proactive, five-year, holistic business development growth strategic plan. The plan analyzed Grand Island’s talent pipeline, inter-industry purchases, economic impact analysis, and exports; created a community marketing brand; and guided strategic investment in business and economic development through 2019.

    Market Street, the chosen strategic planning contractor, had established its reputation of success throughout the nation. Both the Greater Omaha Chamber and the Greater Des Moines Partnership utilized Market Street in their recent economic development plans, Prosper Omaha and Capital Crossroads, respectively.

    "Market Street’s credibility with our key constituents enhanced the development of the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership's five-year strategic plan, Prosper Omaha 2014-2018. Recently, Mac Holladay provided subject matter expertise for a presentation with key economic development investors and leaders from the Nebraska-Iowa metro area as we prepared to launch our new six-county Greater Omaha Regional Economic Development Organization,” said David G. Brown, Omaha’s Chamber's president and CEO.

    Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership stated, “Market Street did an excellent job helping us bring together our regional public and private partners at both the grasstops and grassroots level to develop and launch ‘Capital Crossroads: A Vision for Greater Des Moines and Central Iowa.

    The business development growth strategy, Grow Grand Island, recently merged with Grander Vision, the City of Grand Island's comprehensive visioning plan, to best utilize available resources. Many of the recommendations from Grander Vision overlapped or aligned with recommendations from Grow Grand Island and this merge assures community organizations and public entities are focused on the same goals.  

    Web-Based Buyer's Guide
    Grow Grand Island is establishing a we-based buyer's guide to promote and encourage business-to-business procurement on a local level in Hall County. 

    We invite any business to participate in this beginning phase of building the database, which entails capturing your goods and services in the form of keywords via an online questionnaire. Complete the questionnaire!

    Keywords should be specific and comprised of 1-2 (maybe 3) words. Phrases and sentences should be avoided. Pre-planning your keywords is encouraged, although your submission can be edited at a later time. To access a free tool to help identify the best keywords, click here.

    If you have any questions, please contact Tonja at tonja@kdsi.net.

    Committee members include: Tonja Brown, Jessica Hendricks, Tammy Slater, Tanya Potthoff, Freida Jemison, Michelle Fitzke, Sara Bennett, Jay Wren, Cindy Johnson, Griselda Rendon, and Sandra Barrera. 

     

  • Business First

    Business First is an outreach program that seeks to facilitate expansions and mitigate layoffs by conducting a series of site visits and surveys with existing business in and around Grand Island. 

    The Chamber wants to help support our local partners, help solve business concerns and improve the business climate of the community. This program will help local businesses remain competitive and increase local businesses' ability to compete in the global economy. 

    A BRE (Business Retention and Expansion) Team will be visiting you soon!

    Please contact Freida Jemison, Partnership Services Coordinator, at 308.382.9210 with any questions.

  • Identifying Opportunities.

    Preserving Existing Economic Assets.

    The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce is continuously engaged in identifying potential opportunities for the Grand Island business community.  Equally important is our focus on preserving existing economic assets.  Husker Harvest Days is one example of growing an idea into an opportunity that resulted in a successful economic engine for Hall County.  And, in the near future, we will be working collaboratively with public and private partners to enhance and protect this important asset.

    Husker Harvest Days

    Husker Harvest Days is the largest working irrigated farm show in the world.  More than 35 years ago, community leaders from Grand Island and central Nebraska envisioned an experimental farm show that could be developed as a showplace for agriculture.  The Chamber of Commerce’s Agricultural Committee became the catalyst for the conversations and resulting development.

    Following site visits to other farm shows in the Midwest, hours spent in discussion and debate, and acquisition of land at the former Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant, Husker Harvest Days was born.  A non-profit subsidiary corporation of the Grand Island Chamber known as the Agriculture Institute of Nebraska was formed.  This group secured the funding, oversaw the development of leased land so it could be farmed and irrigated, and provided other expertise.  The first show was held in 1978.

    Now more than three decades later, community leaders are coming together with a goal of modernizing the Husker Harvest Days site.  Infrastructure needs, including burial of utility lines, improved site drainage, and paved roads, have been identified.  These improvements will ensure that Husker Harvest Days remains one of the top farm shows in the United States.  We look forward to reviewing the engineer/architectural plans this fall.

    Husker Harvest Days generates a $7.7 million impact on the Hall County economy, according to a recent study completed by Dr. Eric Thompson with the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.  The Agriculture Institute of Nebraska commissioned this study in 2013 to determine the economic impact of Husker Harvest Days.  The report delineates the various economic activities associated with Husker Harvest Days and considers the spending of over 100,000 visitors who attend the three-day event, and exhibitors who arrive a week in advance to set up their exhibits and to meet with customers.  These vendors, exhibitors, and visitors purchase products and services in our community and enjoy dining and other entertainment as well accruing to a $7.7 million impact.

     

  • Latest News

    Candidates for Legislature Survey 

    The Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates but does have an interest in candidate positions on issues of importance to the business community.  Chamber business partners are encouraged to learn about the candidates they are eligible to vote for and to exercise their right to vote on May 10.  Informed voters are the best way to ensure quality leadership for our city, county, schools, and legislature. To this end the Chamber sent a short questionnaire to candidates for the Grand Island City Council, Hall County Board of Supervisors and State Legislature.

     

    Here are the responses we received from candidates for District 35, State Legislature:

    (Answers are those of the candidates and have not been edited or altered by the Chamber) 

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

    Gregg Neuhaus

    Dan Quick

    We must reduce our tax burden for both our families and businesses.  We lose too many people because of a punitive tax climate.  As a State Senator, I will look toward assuring that we improve vocational education and jobs training opportunities in Nebraska communities like Grand Island.  I will also work to promote advancements in area of tech industries to recruit and retain younger Nebraskans who are seeking opportunities in those fields.  Finally, I would look to eliminate burdensome government regulations that inhibit our local businesses from growing and creating quality, high-paying jobs.

     

    Grand Island has done a great job with adding the Careers Pathway Institute for high school students, but I would propose that state, city and county governments keep working toward increasing opportunities for skilled labor training especially on the secondary education side.

    Zach Zoul

     

    I am committed to measures which ensure that the State is an active partner with Grand Island in the area of workforce development. This needs to be a priority for the Departments of Labor and Economic Development and the College and University Systems, including Community Colleges. We need to strengthen and expand vocational training programs especially in areas where there is a significant shortage of qualified employees such as nurses, welders, and manufacturing technicians and specialists. The Intern Nebraska program is a good example of where the State can assist in this regard. City and County governments need to focus on initiatives including housing, public safety, and quality of life.  Community amenities, facilities, and services will assist in retaining and attracting a local workforce. The Grow Grand Island plan addresses many of these critical needs and warrants ongoing support.

     2. What opportunities do you see for more shared governmental services which would result in greater efficiencies, less duplication of services, and less tax revenues required?

    Gregg Neuhaus

    Dan Quick

    There are many proponents of city/county mergers and I believe there are some areas we may find efficiencies.  Crime investigations, purchasing, and some administrative sharing are ways we may be able to create savings.  I would caution that there are examples from across the country of full mergers that ended up costing taxpayers even more money.  Much can be accomplished through inter-local agreements and Hall County has been a leader in that area. 

     

    The first thing I would do as your state senator is meet with the Grand Island Mayor and City Council and the Hall County Board of Supervisors. Many times the different levels of government aren’t communicating their goals and agendas. I want to make it easier for local tax payers and fight for our fair share of state funding so we can do our best to lower the burden of local property taxes.

    Zach Zoul

     

    At the State level, we should expand shared services and intergovernmental cooperation with cities and counties. Corrections is a major opportunity for this.  The State has a serious problem with overcrowded prisons. Hall County and the State have worked together for many years to house State prisoners in the County Jail.  This program should be expanded across the state to place low risk offenders in County Jails thereby achieving economies at the local level and relieving Prison overcrowding.  The State should cooperate with cities and counties with respect to Health and Human Services, law enforcement such as Crime Labs  and Highway construction. Continued support for Drug Courts and the development of other “problem solving Courts” such as those for domestic abuse and veterans are an opportunity to promote rehabilitation and reduce prosecution and incarceration expenses. At the local level, the City and County have worked cooperatively for years in the areas of health, communications, emergency management, and planning and serve as a model for the rest of the state.

     3. What is the role of technology in the future development of the community?  What entity (entities) should be the driving force behind increasing technological capabilities of our community?

    Gregg Neuhaus

    Dan Quick

    Technology industries are a rapidly growing business set of which communities like Grand Island must take advantage.  It is a way to keep our youth in Grand Island while connecting them with international markets.  State government should promote these industries by making sure we have the right educational opportunities in communities throughout Nebraska.  Infrastructure is also critical for these industries.  We must make sure we have the right infrastructure in place to allow these industries to grow.  Lastly, we must assure that government doesn’t get in the way of entrepreneurs and growing businesses.  It is not government’s place to create jobs but it is the place of government to construct an environment that allows them be created.

     

    Technology will play large role as we go in to the future and this might be an opportunity for a new or established employer to create more skilled labor jobs in the community. Access to high speed internet has become a key to attracting new businesses and workforce. I would encourage tax incentives to companies that want to bring this quality of service to the Grand Island area. The small amount of money spent in tax incentives is far less than the economic benefit that we will gain from it.

    Zach Zoul

     

    The use of technology is the key to growing and strengthening Nebraska’s economy.  Economic development must be our top priority as a state in order to maintain our quality of life and reduce the tax burden. Grand Island must strive to be on the leading edge of technology advancements.  In a global economy and given the opportunities to attract emerging industries and expanding jobs in the area of computer programming, claims processing, call centers, and home based businesses, access to high speed internet is essential.  Some areas of Grand Island, including industrial sites, lack this. In an era where companies can locate anywhere in the world, access to technology is the great equalizer when it comes to emerging business and industry. Among the new initiatives that we should consider is having Grand Island be a “Hot Spot” city with community wide WiFi.

     4. 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?

    Gregg Neuhaus

    Dan Quick

    The leaders and partners of the Grow Grand Island initiatives should be commended for their hard work to make Grand Island an even better place to live and work.  However, this question is more properly answered by candidates for local offices. 

     

    I believe that all of the Initiatives will play a large role in growing Grand Island, but the two that stick out to me the most are Existing Business and Workforce. The best way to grow the economy in Grand Island is to provide Grand Island businesses with a skilled labor force and then compensate them for the skills they possess. All forms of business will thrive and grow when the workforce has more spending power and in theory should create a greater tax base for the community and state. Business and labor are tied together and one cannot survive without the other, so we need to work to grow Grand Island.

    Zach Zoul 

     

    The focus of the Grow Grand Island plan should be those initiatives which seek to strengthen our position as a regional city thereby providing additional opportunity for our residents with respect to employment, education, and community facilities and services while reducing our local tax burden.  It is important to grow and expand our local economy. It is critical that we develop a comprehensive, innovative, and dynamic Reuse Plan for the Veterans Home property that provides opportunity and services for our Veterans as well as the hundreds of employees that will lose their jobs when the facility is relocated. Facilities at the Home should be repurposed to serve Veterans and others in the areas of training, workforce development, rehabilitation, and health and human services such as substance abuse and homelessness. The Pennies for Progress initiative is a way to ensure that visitors to Grand Island pay their fair share of the cost of local services and facilities such as public safety, streets, and parks. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and we need to promote industrial and tourism activities such as expanded trade shows and exhibitions at Fonner Park in the State Fair facilities year-round and the continuation of Husker Harvest Days. Promoting home ownership is another key initiative which will provide greater opportunity for families and stable neighborhoods.

     


    County Board Candidate Survey 

    The Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates but does have an interest in candidate positions on issues of importance to the business community.  Chamber business partners are encouraged to learn about the candidates they are eligible to vote for and to exercise their right to vote on May 10.  Informed voters are the best way to ensure quality leadership for our city, county, schools, and legislature. To this end the Chamber sent a short questionnaire to candidates for the Grand Island City Council, Hall County Board of Supervisors and State Legislature.

     

    Here are the responses we received from candidates for Hall County Board of Supervisors:

    (Answers are those of the candidates and have not been edited or altered by the Chamber)  

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

    Karen Bredthauer, District 2

     

    The state, city and county government have done a great job encouraging developers with tax incentives to build affordable housing in our community. Do to my 8 1/2 years experience on the Hall County Regional Planning Commission I realize this is not an easy process. The local school systems and our citizens have done a great job with keeping our schools up on education for our youth ( Academic and Career Path Institute). Our community could benefit from a better public transportation system.

    Pamela Lancaster, District 4

    Troy Paulsen, District 4

    Nearly 40 years ago my husband and I chose to move back to Grand Island/Hall County because it was the kind of community in which we wished to raise our family. A safe community, with a wonderful educational system, good housing, business opportunities, and access to cultural opportunities ensure a community in which people want to live, work, and raise a family, thus, creating an adequate workforce. When great jobs are available people will move to attain them but today’s young vibrant people choose their communities as well. To the point, regarding ensuring an adequate workforce, over 50% of the County Government budget is spent on public safety. Hall County works diligently to create a safe environment for people of all ages. We contribute with Inheritance Tax Dollars to such cultural and entertainment opportunities as the Event Center, and the State Fair. And, Hall County Park is a prime location for family fun, including picnicking, an exercise trail, and camping. Lastly, Hall County has maintained its Tax Levy over the last several years, in fact one year it was lowered. Lower taxes encourage home ownership and business development.

    First and foremost, if business is not encumbered with excessive regulations they will expand or locate here.  Drawing new employees to the area  will follow.  Hall County is fortunate to have Central Community College available to train and educate employees in the area.  We also have Doane College providing an option for higher education.  Government should provide a safe county and community which will further attract new employees to the area.

    Shanell McCabe, District 6

    Gary Quandt, District 6

    In addition to the Nebraska Department of Labor’s workforce development, one of the best ways that city and county government can ensure an adequate workforce for local employers is to provide easy access to higher education and job training. Beyond that, we need to make our community an appealing place for a person to put down some roots and grow. It will not matter how much education we give our children if they all decide to take their degrees and training and move away. The Grow Grand Island initiative is a prime example of how our local government can help draw people to live and work here. Through it, we can focus our resources on improving the quality of life here, which will encourage our children to stay and become part of the workforce.

    To help with ensuring an adequate workforce Hall County should assist in alleviating obstacles detrimental toward people earning a livable wage in our Community. The County can keep creating their budget, line by line, eliminating unnecessary spending, make every tax dollar county, and therefore keeping the tax Levy as low as possible. No one should pay more than their fair share of the tax burden but everyone should pay a fair share so the tax asking is shared by all. The County Board needs to be very careful not to erode the tax base so thre is a wide spread of valuation to pay the necessary cost of Government. The County Board of Supervisors needs to apply the same standards to all property, homes, commercial and agriculture.

    Brian Whitecalf, District 6

     

    I believe that we can diversify the employment opportunities of Hall county but making investments in small business growth and educational programs .  I think College Park and the CCC campus would be able expand programs with the help of county funds which would attract perspective college students to the area . Also the Career Pathways Institute has been a major asset to our high school students  , I like to see other facilities created for students interested in medical , agriculture , artistic and high tech industry . Our young people need to see a strong investment from us that we want their talents to remain locally tied to Grand Island and Hall county . 

    2. What opportunities do you see for more shared governmental services which would result in greater efficiencies, less duplication of services, and less tax revenues required?

    Karen Bredthauer, District 2

     

    The county and city governments have certain distinct functions. The combined emergency management, police and sheriffs department building, public library, planning and zoning are great examples.

    Pamela Lancaster, District 4

    Troy Paulsen, District 4

    The State has determined that Hall County leads County government in Interlocal Agreements, or shared governmental services, with National, State, County and City entities, ultimately saving tax dollars. Examples, The Health Department, Veterans Services, E911 and Dispatch, Senior Services, Mental Health, Individual Services for the Developmentally Disabled, Regional Planning, Road Equipment, Corrections with Counties or the State Penitentiary, to name a few. Larger projects including the Federal and/or State agreements would include projects like the South Locust Interchange, Wood River Diversion, Morse Creek, and much of the County Road and Bridge reconstruction. We will continue to nurture these relationships and look for similar opportunities. In addition, we will continue to keep a watchful eye and work with our State Senators to see that Legislation is not passed which include Unfunded Mandates costing Hall County Government additional dollars.

    Hall county, Grand Island and the other towns  have little duplication of services.  As a result,  I see few areas where any economy of scale can be realized.

    Shanell McCabe, District 6

    Gary Quandt, District 6

    Shared governmental services are a great tool that can save our taxpayers money. There are many opportunities for city and county government to collaborate and share services and open the doors to new, innovative ways to make the most of our resources. The Grow Grand Island initiative is a perfect example of this idea in action, as it offers many opportunities for the city and county government to explore new ways to share services in regards to economic development. We can also build on areas such as emergency management, the law enforcement center, and the jail, which already offer opportunities to combine services, save taxpayer money, and increase efficiency. It is important to keep a line of communication open between each administration so that we can identify areas of strength and weakness where service sharing can bridge gaps and create synergy in our local government.

    Hall County Government already shares through Interlocal Agreements many costs of doing government business. We have Interlocal Agreements with the City, other Counties, and the State of Nebraska. Additionally, every year at budget time we consider what new agreements have been created and add them to our information that is submitted to the State. Not only does this process help the cost of doing business, it helps with a calculation in our budget that is submitted to the State Auditor. Through Interlocal Agreements we saved tax dollars in the building of the South Locust Interchange, the Wood River Diversion project, the Morse Creek diversion project along the annual agreement such as the Health Department, Veterans Services, Weed Department, Corrections, Senior Services, Mid Nebraska Individual Services, Regional Planning, E911 and Dispatch.

    Brian Whitecalf, District 6

     

    I feel we can reduce wasteful spending and redundant progams but actively seeking out strong working relationships with city,county, state and federal agencies . We can stream line processes such as road construction and maintenance , flood control and waterways management , and ultimately I would work to seek out ways to find funding with grant and community partnerships to reduce over taxation on property owners .

    3. What is the role of technology in the future development of the community?  What entity (entities) should be the driving force behind increasing technological capabilities of our community?

    Karen Bredthauer, District 2

     

    With budgets tight increased technology is limited. One day Broad Band citywide/countywide Internet service would be very beneficial.

    Pamela Lancaster, District 4

    Troy Paulsen, District 4

    Technology is and has been a driving force in efficiency in Hall County Government. Recently we added recordings of our meetings to the Hall County web site. A person can watch our meetings beginning to end at their convenience. Legislation which allows Court Filings electronically has been a great time and cost savings. The Sheriff’s Deputies vehicles are equipped with computers keeping them connected with the Department ensuring additional safety and cost efficiency. The County will remain responsible for its technology advancement and the availability to move forward when state statute and our budget allows. Regarding who should be responsible, no doubt Education, City and Business are also responsible for moving themselves forward with their own restrictions.

    Technology  itself will be the driving force  behind new technologies being developed.  Those new technologies will bring efficiency and quality  to both business and government.

    Shanell McCabe, District 6

    Gary Quandt, District 6

    One of the main roles of technology in community development is communication. Social media and web pages can be a great resource for residents to get informed about what’s going on here and areas where they can get involved. The driving force should be each member of the community. We can all take responsibility for utilizing technology to spread the word and promote the growth of Grand Island. There are so many people who have no idea about the Grow Grand Island initiative and many of the other activities that are available to the public. The only way this will all be successful, is if the residents and prospective employers know about all of the wonderful things Grand Island and Hall County have to offer.

    Technology helps County Government save both time and tax dollars. The County has for years looked for situations where technology would save dollars or serve our constituents better. Just last year, the County Board had a recording of their meetings put on the County Web Site to keep our constituents better informed. A Tax Payer can look on line following our meeting and watch it just as it was live! Hall County manages the technology that allows the Sheriff Deputies, City Police, and Corrections to have access to information which keeps them safer and better informed. The Courts because of fairly new Legislation can now send and receive some of their documents using technology. That has been a big savings. County records of the Assessor, Register of Deeds can be electronically stored. Offices such as the Veterans Service Office and many other offices do the majority of their business through email or FAX. We will continue to do all we can to work toward more efficiency through technology, as new legislature allows. Every entity, Government, Business, or Education is responsible to do what they can. When it comes to anyone who does business with Tax Dollars, I believe it should be mandatory to look every way to save dollars including technology.

    Brian Whitecalf, District 6

     

    It's clear to me that we are increasingly dependent on having high speed internet access and the latest tools to make jobs , education and daily living successful .  If we can increase wifi access with a low cost or in some cases near free than we can attract companies from all across the country .  People for better or worse are tied to social media, search engines and tech devices . Our public schools , libraries and workforce development centers can be a locations where people can take online classes, research better business practices and even connect with like minded folks through twitter and Facebook . Ultimately our cities and counties can be unified through access to the internet . 

    4. 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?

    Karen Bredthauer, District 2

     

    The quality of our existing businesses, entrepreneurs, image, workforce and Community assets impact the greater life in Grand Island/ Hall County.

    Pamela Lancaster, District 4

    Troy Paulsen, District 4

    Hall County has already taken advantage of the “Grow Grand Island” Initiative. The reinstatement of the Building Inspector is a life/safety issue brought forward by the Hall County Villages and supported by the Hall County Board of Supervisors. Although safe housing is one initiative of importance, without a job all else seems a bit futile. Jobs, housing, and education take care of many essentials for living and raising a family. Leisure time opportunities of entertainment, and cultural opportunities round out a desirable community in which to work, live, and raise a family. In summation, the initiatives all hold some importance in building a great community but the essentials must remain primary.

    I believe efforts to retail local businesses is paramount.   Local businesses support and are commited to  Hall County and many of the events, organizations  and activities that improve the quality of life.  Further,  we are reminded that most new jobs result for small business growth.   I appreciate the opportunity to share my views on these topics.

     

    Shanell McCabe, District 6

    Gary Quandt, District 6

    The Grow Grand Island Initiative’s pillar, community assets, is the one I believe will have the greatest impact on quality of life here in Grand Island. I think we need to provide more opportunities for people to get involved and be connected to our community. The ideal achievement would be to create a balance of art and entertainment, shopping, dining, and recreational options that would prevent anyone from ever saying, “There’s nothing to do in Grand Island.” If we can go a step further and actually get our residents involved in this process, I think it would give a sense of responsibility and ownership in the community, which will make people more likely to want to live and work here, as well as attract more employers and laborers to come in from other areas.

    Jobs, jobs, jobs, without a livable wage a person cannot afford the basics let alone the other quality of life advantages. Then housing, it is a basic of human existence. Yet, all of Grow Grand Island Initiatives have value and should be given support as dollars, and time allow. The bottom line is to have a community people want to live, work, and raise a family in.

    Brian Whitecalf, District 6

     

    I support the goals of increasing pre-K education in the county and any increase of early childhood education programs rather public or private . It has been proven that if children start school earlier they have a greater  chance of succeeding in life . 

    Affordable housing is in great demand especially for families . I also would like to see housing that is energy efficient and located closer to public services to reduce traveling . I've hear from many working families that they struggle with high rent , utility payments and access to transportation . 

    I believe that our downtown areas can be a magnet for entertainment , housing , and first time business owners .  These areas can diversify the tax base with home property owners , food and beverage , hotel and entertainment revenues .  We should revitalize our downtown areas now and not later .

    In regards to the Veterans home property , I will only support using the land for Veteran and military members use only .  We can create low-income housing for veterans , educational facilities for veterans and the possibility of increasing medical services for veterans in areas of addiction , physical rehabilitation along with  mental health services . After working in emergency room services in Grand Island I know that we must fight for the needs of veterans , they have sacrificed everything  and when they return home many live on the street, struggle with thoughts of suicide and gaining easy access to medical services . We should not be taking away land from veterans, we should be increasing it.  

     

    City Council Candidate Survey 

    The Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates but does have an interest in candidate positions on issues of importance to the business community.  Chamber business partners are encouraged to learn about the candidates they are eligible to vote for and to exercise their right to vote on May 10.  Informed voters are the best way to ensure quality leadership for our city, county, schools, and legislature. To this end the Chamber sent a short questionnaire to candidates for the Grand Island City Council, Hall County Board of Supervisors and State Legislature.

     Here are the responses we received from candidates for Grand Island City Council:

    (Answers are those of the candidates and have not been edited or altered by the Chamber in any way)

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

    Jeremy Jones, Ward 1

    Mark Stelk, Ward 2

    While low unemployment is a good thing, we often forget that this leaves a small number of people available to fill jobs.  I feel one of the most important things that city government can do, is attract youth to our community.  To do this, we must focus on making Grand Island a place where young people want to live or return to after college.  The efforts made in the Downtown area are a great example of way to attract young people to Grand Island.  I would like to see the city continue to focus on the downtown area as explore other ideas that will attract young people to Grand Island such as parks, hike and bike paths, and other recreational areas.  This will help provide workers in a low unemployment environment as well as bring future community leaders to our community.

    All three entities should take an active role to promote Grand Island and Central Nebraska as a good place to work and live. By giving financial support to E.D.C., to promote Grand Island on their website, by promoting Grand Island on the cities website.

    Julie Hehnke, Ward 3

    Mike Paulick, Ward 4

    Although we are lucky to experience low unemployment rates in our area, the wages and job prospects widely available here are minimum wage and service entry-level jobs. Local government needs to work towards attracting both higher paying blue-collar and white-collar job opportunities. The effort towards preserving, training and appealing to the existing as well as potential labor pool must be a collaborative state, city and county project. The Grand Island community needs to focus on our existing resources and expand the means to acquire and train a potential workforce through the Career Pathways Institute program, Central Community College, and the local high schools. Business and industry in the local area need to be able to effectively communicate and collaborate with these educational agencies to keep the training current and up-to-date to meet workforce demands for skilled workers. Increasing the availability of a labor force will grow our community in a positive direction.

    The first question is going to have to be a collaboration of all the government and the business community. Although low unemployment is wonderful for the people that are working for a new business its a red flag that can mean less than full employment numbers for its business model. All of the government and the E.D.C. need to look at the inquiries that are made in this area for business ventures. This way we know what the future needs for the labor force are. This blends into question three.

    Jon Billington, Ward 4

    Jodi Moore, Ward 4

    [Did not respond to survey]

    [Did not respond to survey]

    Chuck Haase, Ward 5

     

    The best way for City government to assist in ensuring that we have an adequate workforce is to proactively address quality of life issues so that current residents and prospective residents find Grand Island to be a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family. We need to provide quality City services and, in particular, exceptional public safety. City government should work closely with the Chamber of Commerce and other business and community organizations to promote programs that strengthen workforce training and development, with the Career Pathways as a positive example. The City needs to be a member of the Chamber as a reflection of its commitment to working with the business community, working in partnership in creating jobs and economic opportunity for our residents.

     

     2. What opportunities do you see for more shared governmental services which would result in greater efficiencies, less duplication of services, and less tax revenues required?

    Jeremy Jones, Ward 1

    Mark Stelk, Ward 2

    Our civil service officers with the Police Department do the work that would otherwise be done by police officers.  Prior to our current CSO program, police officers were tasked with handling city code violations such as trash in yards, over-parked cars,and unkempt property.  In order to do this properly, you must have a full time focus on it.  I feel that keeping or possibly expanding the program provides a very useful service to our city and at a much lower cost than we would pay a police officer.  This means fewer tax dollars are spent, while the job is done at a much higher level due to the CSO's ability to focus on the code violations and not all areas of public safety.  In addition, we have more officers on the street and available for calls or crime prevention.  Maintaining this program is important.  I would support expanding this program if it would continue to free up police officers and enforce city code which makes our city look clean and attractive.  

    Opportunities for shared government services could result in less taxes and revenue. By sharing equipment, road graders, dump trucks and other construction equipment such as was done in the big snow storm this last winter.

    Julie Hehnke, Ward 3

    Mike Paulick, Ward 4

    There needs to be careful review of government infrastructure and business processes/practices that can be shared and/or combined between the city and county levels to deliver significant savings and promote efficiency to taxpayers. Use of technology should be examined when thinking about the restructuring of business processes and how services may be delivered differently.  Many manual tasks could be automated to help eliminate operating costs. Technology would allow for multiple agencies, city and county to use common tools for greater results.  If one looks at the list of agencies/departments of each, there are many commonalities and many agencies/departments are duplicated at both levels. Although the focus of each may be somewhat different, it is possible, valuable, and cost-effective for the two to work collaboratively.  Since Grand Island is a large entity of Hall County, many of the tasks, could easily be incorporated into one department, which would work as, shared services and provide taxpayers better value and service, with cost effective delivery.

    The City and County right now have interlocal agreements in ambulance service, 911 services, transit service for citizens inside and outside the urban area. These are a few of the services shared now and there is a long list of more that can be shared with the State and County including Veterans Housing Authority work on rehabilitating the Present Veterans Cemetery working with the State on improving the 281 corridor, so that it is safe to travel and turn off the congested intersections. Try to work with the State on the Hiway 30 west bound four lane and keep it on the original road bed to save money for City and State. There are many ways to save on all these arrangements it is just sitting down and doing it.

    Jon Billington, Ward 4

    Jodi Moore, Ward 4

    [Did not respond to survey]

    [Did not respond to survey]

    Chuck Haase, Ward 5

     

    During my lifetime, I had the great opportunity to be on Senior Management teams in both Government and the Private Sector.  My observations have been that most government officials look with some distain on private sector, and vice versa.  So the culture that exists today makes its unusually difficult for efficiencies and/or any meaningful tax reduction to occur without a major shift in the government culture, and citizen involvement in a meaningful way.  We need well intentioned business minded individuals to run for public office who support public service with a customer focus and individual accountability, to create policies that reward greater efficiencies, less duplication of services, while using the savings in the form of tax reduction instead of simply finding another need to fill.

     3. What is the role of technology in the future development of the community?  What entity (entities) should be the driving force behind increasing technological capabilities of our community?

    Jeremy Jones, Ward 1

    Mark Stelk, Ward 2

    The use of technology typically increases an entities efficiency or ability to properly use resources.  Government should always be looking for ways to operate more efficiently.  Because of this, we must always embrace technology and use it to grow and improve our community.  The city should be looking for ways to utilize technology in order to provide better services as well as improve the quality of life in our city.

     

    Our future will be driven by technology. The city and county should develop technology to apply for permits and license over the city website. To make services available over the computer and by email.

    Julie Hehnke, Ward 3

    Mike Paulick, Ward 4

    Technology in our twenty first century world is an escapable component we cannot ignore while working towards the development of our community. However, as communities increase technological capabilities, plans must be developed and adopted to ensure people have affordable access to the technological tools—including advanced telecommunications, computers, and software. Education and training must be accessible to all community members who must learn how to use these tools towards creating new uses that benefit their lives and work. Local organizations, educational institutions, and public services like the public library must become integral members in providing training opportunities for community members. In addition, fiber optic access is a priority that communities cannot diminish. Not only are businesses demanding access to move and manage information and data, internet strategies also are critical components towards the development of communication strategies and the opportunity to develop global partners and customers. Local city and county government must work towards ensuring fiber optic cabling is a priority.  Moreover, it is imperative that community businesses and residents have the capacity and opportunity to take advantage of these technological opportunities and it may be that an additional group may need to be formed to assist as the entity to coordinate efforts and encourage a change in community member’s attitude towards undeniable need for technological growth and use within the Grand Island community.

    We need to have the young workers that are going to be the backbone of our City being trained in new vocational and technological skills that will help retain them in Grand Island and also will insure to any business looking to locate here that they will have a steady and reliable work force for years to come. All of this can be done by working with our local high schools and Community Colleges for the training and the curriculum needed for the new age businesses in agriculture, manufacturing and earth sciences. This can be accomplished with grants and funding from the businesses in need and the State and local government agencies that are spending their funds educating the youth of our area now.  This will help retain workers in our area, also help improve the number of skilled workers in our area and raise the median wage for the workers.

    Jon Billington, Ward 4

    Jodi Moore, Ward 4

    [Did not respond to survey]

    [Did not respond to survey]

    Chuck Haase, Ward 5

     

    Technology can be the leading reason for greater efficiency or it could simply be large government expenditure with limited functional use.  High Speed Internet is already available, so the driving force will be the affordability to homes.  The Public Library is a community location for access and the ability to imagine and dream.  We need to work with existing employers to employ newer, more efficient technologies, which in turn, will attract a higher skilled workforce.

     4. 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?

    Jeremy Jones, Ward 1

    Mark Stelk, Ward 2

    I feel that the city must continue to improve our image and attract people and business to our city.  Our corridors to the city are vital to how people view our city when the visit or just pass through.  We need to use every option possible to make these areas attractive in order to make a good impression.  In addition, I also feel that the downtown redevelopment is very important.  As I stated above, the downtown area can be used to attract people, particularly young people, to our city.  These people will provide a workforce and will become the future leaders of our community.  

    All five pillars of the Grow Grand Island initiatives are very important. The one that will have the greatest impact is quality of life. Having hike and bike trails, recreation opportunities from softball fields to soccer fields, and dog parks. Having the field house for the youth to practice indoors during incumbent weather. When prospective employers, business or new employees move to a city, the first thing they look at is recreational family like activities. This will have a great impact on recruiting employees and business to Grand Island.

    Julie Hehnke, Ward 3

    Mike Paulick, Ward 4

    As a whole, the Grow Grand Island initiatives target a plan to enhance and improve growth and quality of life for community residents. However, the initiative that I feel will have the greatest impact on the quality of life for residents is the act towards maintaining and recruiting businesses and jobs, as well as offering support to potential entrepreneurs. Access to jobs that provide opportunities for workers to earn wages higher than minimum wage only, leads to community members having the ability to purchase homes, provides a sense of pride to workers, and promotes the spending of money on local goods and services which results in additional tax revenue to our community. I feel this initiative is the backbone of growing our community and local and county government must support all measures such as TIF financing, Economic Development funds, and other community/business grants and funding sources we can gain to ensure the success of this initiative. If the Grand Island community can make efforts towards maintaining existing businesses, recruiting new businesses, entrepreneurs and industry, then this will provide the means and impetus for many of the other initiatives to be successful.

    When looking at the Grow Grand Island initiatives there is hardly one more important than the others. We need affordable housing for the workers or businesses will be reluctant the invest here. We need clean corridors coming into town to show the pride we have in our community and to help bring those businesses to our area. A clean and vibrant business district downtown and on the corridors coming into town will attract shoppers and diners. We need our businesses, City and County governments plus the E.D.C.s, State Fair board, Visitors Bureau and the Chamber to work together for the good of all of us.

    Jon Billington, Ward 4

    Jodi Moore, Ward 4

    [Did not respond to survey]

    [Did not respond to survey]

    Chuck Haase, Ward 5

     

    One promising initiative is the Grow Grand Island Export Initiative that supports the development in new international trade relationships for Grand Island manufacturers.  By growing our existing manufacturing exports, we can make significant impacts community wide.

    Vote FOR Pennies for Progress

    How important is the renewal of the food and beverage tax for Grand Island on May 10th?
    Watch this video and see for yourself.
    Please share.

    Seminar dealt with growing threat of cyber security risks in Central Nebraska

    Members of the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce learned about the increasing threat of cyber criminals in Central Nebraska and how to protect themselves and their businesses from cyber attacks on Tuesday.

    Intellicom presented “Cyber Risks: The Growing Threat” to help individuals prevent cyber crime. The chamber sponsored the seminar. Read more.

    G.I. Area Chamber of Commerce academic recognition event honors top Northwest grads

    The Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce will honor the top-ranked graduating scholars from Northwest High School during an academic recognition reception at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the school’s auditorium.

    For more than 30 years, the chamber has hosted a series of annual academic recognition receptions honoring the top-ranked scholars from Grand Island’s high schools. The three receptions, along with the endowment of chamber academic scholarships to four local students, provide an opportunity for the chamber and business partners to demonstrate their support for the scholastic achievements of today’s student leaders and tomorrow’s business leaders. Read more.

    GISH hosts ceremony to honor brightest in Class of 2016

    Students in Grand Island were recognized for academic excellence Monday night. 75 Grand Island Senior High seniors were honored at a ceremony as the top 15% of the Class of 2016. Read more.

    G.I. Area Chamber of Commerce introduces '35 under35' honorees

    Cities grow because they have a good workforce with the proper skills for today’s modern economy, and because they have the right infrastructure of good highways and air travel connections.

    But Jerry Patterson, senior vice president of retirement and income solutions with the Principal Financial Group, told the audience at the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night having a great work force is increasingly a matter of also having a community where people want to live and play. Read more.

    Backers of Food and Beverage Tax Say It's Crucial to City's Success

    A 1.5 percent tax on food and beverages is about more than the 75 cents it would generate on a $50 restaurant bill, says Grand Island Mayor Jeremy Jensen.

    The tax would lead to more businesses coming to Grand Island, improvements in the city’s quality of life and less pressure to raise property taxes, Jensen said.

    Jensen made his comments Tuesday at a gathering that kicked off the “Pennies for Progress” campaign. On May 10, voters will be asked to renew the 1.5 percent tax on served food and beverages that has been existence since 2008. The tax would be slightly expanded from its current form.Read more.

    Pennies for Progress to Kick Off Campaign on Tuesday

    Pennies for Progress will have a press conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Nebraska Building at Fonner Park to begin a two-month campaign to educate the voting public on the extension of the 1.5-cent occupation tax on served food and beverages.

    The extension of the occupation tax will be on the May 10 primary election ballot.

    The Grand Island City Council on Dec. 22 unanimously approved renewal of the tax, subject to voter approval.

    The existing served food and beverage occupation tax began in 2008 to assist with recruitment of the Nebraska State Fair and is scheduled to sunset on or before July 1, 2017. Read more.

    Pennies for Progress: Food and Beverage Tax up for Renewal

    The campaign to renew Grand Island’s 1.5 cent tax on served food and beverages is called Pennies for Progress.

    Dave Taylor, president of the Grand Island Area Economic Development Corp. (EDC), told members of the Citizens Review Committee Thursday that the EDC supports the renewal because of the beneficial ways that the revenue can be used — and because visitors to Grand Island contribute to the revenue when they come to shop or attend sporting, agricultural or cultural events.

    “When all these people come to town, they are leaving their pennies here,” Taylor told the committee. “They are eating here, they are getting food prepared here, they are buying gas here, they are leaving their pennies here for our progress — and that’s what we want.”

    The original food and beverage tax was implemented in 2008, but will sunset this July.

    The Grand Island City Council has placed the renewal on the May 10 primary election ballot. If approved by voters, the renewed tax would begin in July, but would have no sunset. Read more.

  • The 2016 Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting took place on March 31 with the theme of "Power of the Past - Force of the Future".  At the Annual Meeting, the Chamber's Top 35 Under 35 were honored and awarded certificates for their achievements. The Chamber also awarded recipients of the Small Business of the Year award, Richard Good Distinguished Service award, Outlier award, and the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame award. 

    Click here to see the Power of the Past - Force of the Future video.

     

    Congratulations to our award winners:

    Active Family Chiropractic & Acupuncture received the award for Small Business of the Year. 

    The Richard Good Distinguished Service honor was awarded to Kris Nolan Brown.

    Stuhr Museum received the honor of the Outlier award.

    Jerry's Sheet Metal was honored with the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame award. 

    Award Winner Videos:

    Active Family
    Kris Nolan Brown
    Stuhr Museum
    Jerry's Sheet Metal

     

    To see photos of the event, click here.
    Photos by Iris Photography.

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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