Wednesday, September 16, 2009
sponsored by Graue Inc.

Lincoln holds 1st Economic Development Summit

Part 3: What are our strengths?

(Part 1: Vision set for participants)

(Part 2: A door opens for change in Lincoln and Logan County)

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[September 16, 2009]  In the opening half of Saturday's summit, participants were encouraged to identify what needed to happen for the community to move forward. Together, the mixed body of government leaders, business and community participants declared a goal to become unified with a plan of action.

InsuranceThree issues were also targeted as needing improvement between government bodies and business development entities: better communications, trust and that there should be one person in each area who knows everything that is going on.

With opened minds, the participants launched into identifying potential materials for use to lay a future foundation.

Part 3

As the second half of the meeting began, Cox divided the room into three groups and gave them a new challenge: to identify the strengths of the community.

(See Part 1 for participants.)

The first group to present their answers consisted of Alley, Bacon, Conrady, Neitzel, Rohlfs, Schonauer and Snyder, with Snyder being the presenter.

Snyder said that his group had made a list, then went back and identified the top five strengths.

  1. A diverse educational system that includes public schools, parochial schools and colleges.

  2. Economic diversity. Snyder commented that years ago most of the areas would have been stronger, but still Lincoln is diversified, with a wide variety of businesses as well as industry.

  3. Medical access -- a new hospital going up as well as assisted living through Castle Manor for the senior population.

  4. Central location -- being not only located in the center of the state, but also with access to major highways and rail.

  5. The historical aspects of the city and county and the connections with both Abraham Lincoln and Route 66.

Other strengths the group identified were the green spaces and parks in the area, the park district facilities, the local festivals, and the fact that Lincoln is a walkable community with a nice downtown area with potential for improvement.

The group noted the city's big homes, big trees and brick streets, saying that they were a sightseeing attraction of their own.

They also identified the community as safe, with a variety of available housing, diversity in faith and plenty of empty spaces that could be re-purposed. In addition they noted the county had strong agricultural connections as well as a strong work ethic.

Rick Hamm, a local agent with State Farm Insurance, served as the spokesman for the second group, which included Mary Ahillen, superintendent of Lincoln Elementary Schools; Carlton; Ferry; Horn; Lisa Kramer of Hanson Professional Services; and Haji Patel, who owns several small businesses, including Famous Liquor and Quiznos.

Hamm said that his group had duplicated Snyder's on a few points, but they had also come up with some different things.

In relation to surrounding areas, the local sales tax rate is comparable, and in regard to business property taxes, the Logan County rate is somewhat lower than surrounding areas.

They added the airport to their transportation strengths, but noted that it is currently underserved and could benefit the area more if it were expanded.

The LDC campus is a strength with potential for future development.

Hamm also said that they would add to the point of the downtown area that there are nice, older neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area that are in pretty good condition.

The last group to speak consisted of local businessman Dave Doolin, Dolan Dalpoas of Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, Elam, Tom Funk, Hake, Hulett, Ladd and Smiley. Speaking for the group was Hake.

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Again there was some repetition, but this group also offered some new perspectives.

Their list included the enterprise zone and the available space left in the zone.

There are wind energy possibilities, and a high number of available transmission lines make it more attractive to wind developers.

Potential for physical growth was labeled as a huge asset to the community, as well as the low cost of living.

Hake said that the group also noted that in smaller communities such as Lincoln, it is easier for new people to come into the community and right away get involved with the community.

She said that the group had discussed hometown loyalty as strength, but they had also recognized this as a "double-edged sword." As the group talked through this, they considered that being loyal to locally owned businesses was good, but at the same time it could make things difficult for new businesses coming in from the outside. In addition, Hake had pointed out that when local business owners know they have that loyal following, they sometimes become complacent in offering the kind of customer service that their patrons deserve.

Hake told the room that her group had also recognized as one of the greatest strengths the number of "idea people" in the community, and Cox quickly asked if those people were in the room, to which Hake answered that indeed many of them were.

She went on with the list, noting that the community has a strong sense of volunteerism. She commented on the 1,000-plus who have joined forces in the Together for Lincoln projects as well as the 300 or more who give their time to the success of the annual Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival.

And finally the group added as one of the community's strengths the existing industry in the city. She named specifically Eaton, International Paper and the Saint-Gobain glass factory, noting that they had been added not only for the jobs that they produce, but also for what they give back to the community.


In the next segment, Cox asks the group to identify what makes Lincoln and Logan County unique.

As they compile their short list, questions arise about the wind farms, such as, "Will we be littered with windmills?" and "Are we being too shortsighted?"


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