Business News & Photos

2013 Annual Meeting

By Cindy Johnson

The past several years have been a remarkable period of time in the history of Grand Island.  One only has to consider… the progress that has been made in our community, the positive growth that we have experienced, and the strength of all of the key economic indicators that we as a business community are concerned about and depend upon.

It would be easy to devote the totality of my remarks to the growth of retail sales, employment, tourism, manufacturing expansion, agriculture, enplanements, and real estate values.

We have what can only be characterized as a robust economy in an era where most of the country has seen stagnation and decline. Nebraska has done well and Grand Island has done particularly well.

The strength of our community and our local economy is the result of your focus, involvement in the community, and – for business – a laser like attention to each element that makes your company a success.  And, of course, you make it happen by your membership and participation in the Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber of Commerce in Grand Island and in every city across America represents something unique and has as its mission a role and responsibility that no other organization fulfills.  We are the association – the trade group –  the umbrella – for ALL business.  Businesses large and small. Businesses both private and non-profit.  Businesses with varied functions from retail to service, to manufacturing, to tourism, to agriculture. This – all of you – is what the Chamber is about.

Our role simply put, is to build and sustain a strong, growing, and prosperous community. To enhance the quality of life. To work continually for a better future.  To ensure that we have a positive and growth oriented climate for business.  The Chamber through its Board of Directors, Committees, volunteers and staff work every day on behalf of our members and for business generally.  We provide the services, programs, and leadership to meet the needs of business.  We are vigilant about seeking opportunities – like recruitment of the Nebraska State Fair – and development of a pipeline of future employees through the Career Pathways Institute.

As the voice of business in Grand Island, we are continuously creating opportunities, pursuing prospects, and holding off threats to the vitality of our community.  But of the utmost importance — we are your advocate locally, in Nebraska, and nationally.

Each year, the Chamber fields thousands of inquiries from people locally and across the country seeking information, referrals and recommendations for products and services.  These inquiries come by phone, personal visits, and the internet.  We are proud to recommend our Chamber members in response to these inquiries. Many of you, if not all of you, can attest to referrals that came as a result of what is – for most people – their first stop when seeking information on the community – the Chamber of Commerce.

Another primary role is to market and promote the community generally.  Grand Island is a great place to live, work and raise a family.  And – importantly – it is a great place to do business.  Every day we work to market Grand Island and we respond to hundreds of requests for information from people looking to locate their families or businesses to the area or who otherwise wish to do business here.  We work closely with our community partners to put our best foot forward in promoting the Grand Island area.

Your Chamber is on solid financial footing, and as a result, can dedicate the necessary resources to initiatives that are important to the business community.  This year, that includes:

  • Retaining the Nebraska Veteran’s Home in Grand Island
  • Enhancing our community’s marketing efforts and attracting more national and regional events
  • Workforce development including education and skills training; as well as Young Professionals recruitment and retention
  • Downtown development
  • Supporting improvements to air travel
  • Supporting legislative initiatives which aid business and opposing those that make it more difficult to operate.

Our progress as a community is dependent on all of you – the business community – working collaboratively with our partners, state and local government, and others to build upon our strengths and to successfully address the challenges and opportunities before us. This is your Chamber.  We are an association of you – individuals and businesses that are committed to ensuring that Grand Island is a progressive and prosperous community – one that we can all be proud of and one that allows for continued community and business growth and development.  By working together for a common mission in a united fashion, there is no limit to what can be accomplished!




The Chamber is involved in both quality of life and the economic vitality of our community.  Grand Island has had a lot of success over the past year and tonight is our chance to celebrate the victories and talk about the possibilities.

We do have a few goals for this evening.

  • We want to recognize those who have helped GI “reach for the sky” in the last year.
  • We want to engage you with some good success stories.
  • We want to entertain you.
  • And….We want to thank you for all the support you give the Chamber and all the countless hours you give back to our community.  Thank you!

To start off the evening, I would like to recognize Cindy Johnson and her staff.  They work hard to make GI a better place …….to live ……and do business in.

Back at Chief Industries, we often survey our customers and ask them…

“What is the most important attribute they look for in their sales person?”

We give them several choices, but they always select….

“We want our salesperson to fight for our needs.”

Cindy and her staff may not always be visible, but I can assure you they are fighting for your needs.  Whether they are working with government officials or trying to stimulate economic activity for our business community……They have your best interest at heart!!    Thank you Cindy and staff.

On a personal note, I am honored to be the board chair for 2013.  Both our staff and board members are excited about the opportunities AND possibilities that face GI in the coming year.  Some of the more obvious opportunities include:

  • The Veterans home.  I can’t think of any community that can do a better job of serving our vets than GI.
  • The Career Pathways Institute.  This is our chance to assist employers with workforce issues AND provide opportunities for students.
  • A Visioning committee.   The city has asked some great people to look at both the short-term and long-term needs of GI.
  • Livestock Authority.  There are discussions about an organization that could help promote AND utilize the livestock buildings located on Fonner Park year around, bringing new events and revenue into the community.


The Chamber board and staff will do its best to support these opportunities and many others.  We are here to serve.  Don’t ever hesitate to give us feedback.  Let us know how we can help.


When I first heard we were getting an astronaut to speak tonight, I had two thoughts.

  • The first thought was………………How appropriate that with a room full of people who really do see the sky as the limit for GI……. They get to hear from a speaker who has already made that launch.
  • The second thought I had was a flashback to first grade.  I can still vividly remember my first grade teacher Mrs Lanning.  This is before they had AT&T commercials with little kids debating….. bigger or faster.   Mrs Lanning went around the room one day and asked everyone in class “what they wanted to be when they grew up.”


If you were a boy in 1969 living in Omaha, NE, you gave one of the following three answers.

  1. The President of the United States
  2. An Astronaut
  3. A Garbage Man

(I won’t mention which one I shouted out that day, but I am pretty sure my Mom thinks I have exceeded my goals)

My how things have changed!!  Today, it is rare to find a kid who wants to be the President of the United States.  We are begging our high school students to take math and science.  And, we would prefer to recycle everything and have no garbage.

But I do believe that the goal of “the sky is the limit” has never changed.  So if anyone is wondering how we were lucky enough to get an astronaut, three things had to happen.

  1. The garbage man had a previous engagement.
  2. The President of the United States didn’t want to give a speech in a state that knows how to balance a budget.  (Thank you Governor Heineman)
  3. And finally, because Mr. Clayton Anderson did all the right things….. like take science and work hard…….he is newly retired and available to be our keynote speaker.

By Dave Koubek


  • Contact

    309 West 2nd Street • PO Box 1486
    Grand Island, NE 68802-1486
    Phone: 308.382.9210
    Fax: 308.382.1154