Monday, May 24, 2010
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Logan County Economic Master Plan re-visioning the future

Part 1: Information for plan gathered

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[May 24, 2010]  At the end of last week something special was going on in Logan County. There were the stirrings of a new future for its residents. At least that is what is hoped for and expected due to planning on the part of community leaders, led by a talented team of economic developers.

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 development professionals.

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 happened.

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 share.

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 College.

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 the public.

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."


Previous articles in series:

Lincoln's 1st Economic Development Summit

Mayor hosts economic summit, round 2

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