Friday, February 26, 2010
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'Gang of Five' works to communicate, strengthen ties

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[February 26, 2010]  This story begins in the fall of 2009 when Mayor Keith Snyder called the first Economic Development Summit for Lincoln and Logan County. The meeting consisted of approximately 30 people who were keenly interested in seeing the city and county grow and move into the 21st century.

InsuranceAs that first summit progressed, a number of ideas were thrown out for everyone to discuss and think about. Some were long-range goals that will take time to accomplish; some were suggestions that could be acted on immediately.

One of those immediate needs was brought to light by Alderwoman Marty Neitzel when she said: "We have economic development that has things going on, chamber will have things going on and city will have things going on. I believe that one person out of all those areas should know everything that is going on. There are times when we have (new) businesses in Lincoln and the city council is the last to know. Trust is a key in this town, and we go along with a mindset of 'NO trust,' and we need to change that mindset."


Soon after that first summit meeting, Snyder decided that he needed to act on Neitzel's comment and bring the city, economic development, the chamber, tourism and Main Street Lincoln together once a month in his office for an informal chat on what each group is doing in the community.

Nicknamed the "Gang of Five," those who participate are Snyder, Andi Hake of the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce, Wanda Lee Rohlfs of Main Street Lincoln, Geoff Ladd of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, and Joel Smiley of the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership.

When asked if the group thought that the Gang of Five was beneficial, it was Smiley who spoke up, saying that it had helped him a great deal.

"Before the mayor came in, we never had meetings like this. Because of these, at least my knowledge base has gone up," Smiley said.

He went on to say that he does interact daily with tourism and chamber because they are all in the same building, but Main Street, on the other hand, he hasn't known that much about until recently.

Mayor Keith Snyder (center) with
Wanda Lee Rohlfs and Joel Smiley

Ladd commented, though, that he felt the public perception in regard to the chamber, tourism and Main Street is not as accurate as the reality. He commented, "Our three groups, because of the nature of what we all do with the overlap in tourism, we're always working together."

While these groups may interact well together, the key issue may be how well the mayor and the city have fit into the scheme of things in the past, and how it is changing now.

"Since Mayor Snyder has been on board, our interaction with the city has increased tenfold, even 100-fold," Hake said. "With meetings like this and Keith's involvement in other areas, not just the chamber but in the community as a whole, it has helped a lot."

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Rohlfs said that the group was of benefit to all of them in that it marked a special time that they all sat down together.

"We all serve as ex officio members on each other's board, but we don't have time to go to everybody else's board meetings," she explained. "This is good because it gives us an opportunity to sit and talk. And, I think it is important that the community be able to see that interaction, not just here in this room, but out in the public as well."

Rohlfs added that as time progresses and the group truly gets on board with each other's programs, future goals may involve more collaboration when organizing events.

When asked if the Gang of Five was missing anyone -- was there someone not at the table who should be? -- the group as a whole thought they were pretty well complete.

Rohlfs commented that this particular group is dealing specifically with the city of Lincoln. She said that if someone came to their attention who could offer good input that would benefit the city, they would be encouraged to join in.

Snyder enforced Rohlfs' comment, saying that the group is not exclusive: "These four groups -- five with the city -- are all trying to promote the city and trying to grow and advance the interests of the city and its citizens. If there are others that should be here, they would be welcomed."

So what does the future hold for the Gang of Five? They will continue keeping their lines of communication open, sharing information and looking for opportunities to showcase Lincoln.

They will draw on the strengths of each organization and present to the community a unity of purpose that perhaps has not been seen by its citizens for quite some time.

Geoff Ladd and Andi Hake


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