Vandewalle & Associates arrived in Lincoln on Thursday morning to
launch the process of building the first Lincoln and Logan County
Economic Master Plan.
The Vandewalle firm, based out of Madison, Wis., specializes in
helping communities realize their potential from a new perspective:
the perspective of competing in a global economy.
The team consists of Rob Gottschalk, Scott Harrington, Dan
Kennelly and Brian Vandewalle, owner and CEO of the firm.
Also joining in leading this re-visioning process is Richard
Longworth, author of the book "Caught in the Middle." His book has
been a reference source for the city of Lincoln in its economic
summit meetings that were hosted last year by Mayor Keith Snyder.
According to Harrington, the group began its visit to Logan
County with a motor tour of the area. He said the group was given
the opportunity to see the wind farms and observe the general layout
of the county.
After that, they began meeting with people in the community in
specially designed focus groups. With 10 groups in all, participants
were divided into manufacturing, agriculture, high-tech, health
care, elementary education, high school education, higher education,
local elected officials, community businesses and economic
Harrington said that the purpose of the focus groups was to
discuss the economic history of the area. He explained that
Vandewalle & Associates is able to gather all kinds of statistical
information, but just having the facts doesn't explain what
For example, statistics may tell that there has been an upswing
in unemployment, but it is the people in the focus groups who are
able to tell them why this occurred.
Harrington said he thought the turnout was good in all the groups
and that each sector offered a lot of input. He noted that on many
occasions, time ran out with people still talking and wanting to
He also noted that the community has already started a dialogue
about the future through the economic summits. He feels that on the
whole Logan County is ready to look at what needs to change in order
to see the area grow and thrive, and that there is a commitment by
its leaders to this process.
Over the next few months the Vandewalle team will analyze the
community and put together a master plan for economic growth. The
master plan, Harrington said, will contain creative ideas for the
future of the community in a written plan and graphic illustrations.
At noon on Friday, the Lincoln & Logan County Development
Partnership board and Joel Smiley, executive director, hosted a
luncheon that represented a coming together of all those who
participated in the individual groups.
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At the beginning of the luncheon, Dr. Kristen Green-Morrow,
president of the development partnership board of directors,
welcomed the guests.
She acknowledged the partnership's selection committee that chose
Vandewalle & Associates. Partnership board members who served with
her on the committee were county board chairman Terry Carlton, Dolan
Dalpoas of Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, county board member
Bill Martin and Snyder, the Lincoln mayor.
She also thanked all those who have helped in the selection
process and in the launch of the master plan, including her
vice-president, Patrick Doolin; Mark Hilliard, administrator of the
health department; and Dr. John Hutchinson, president of Lincoln
Smiley said the selection committee had given him free rein to
choose eight candidate firms that they would then meet and
interview. A $50,000 grant award from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture allowed selection from among the best firms in the
Midwest. Vandewalle had stood head and shoulders above the others.
Harrington said that the team's first two days in Logan County
were very productive and that they were leaving with a good
cross-sectional picture of the community and the people.
The Vandewalle team will work through the summer putting together
the master plan and will return in September to present the plan to
Tomorrow LDN will bring you a brief summary of comments about the
Midwest economic condition made by noted author Richard Longworth in
"Caught in the Middle."
[By NILA SMITH]
Previous articles in
Lincoln's 1st Economic
Mayor hosts economic summit, round 2