Archive for February, 2011

2010 Awards Banquet Winners

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Congrats to our 2010 Chamber/Economic Development Annual Awards Banquet winners – you were all extremely deserving. Saturday night was a ton of fun and I’m energized to tackle 2011. Photos are coming soon!
Update: we’ve posted a video below, courtesy of our friends at the Ord Quiz. Thanks Lacey!

(Ord, NE) – Valley County Economic Development and the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated their annual banquet Saturday, February 26, 2011 at the Veteran’s Club in Ord.  The evening began with a social hour at 6:00 pm.  Dinner began at 7:00 pm followed by funny storytelling entertainment by Craig Larson of KNEB Radio in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  The crowd then participated in Split-the-Pot Bingo.  Congratulations to the winner, Kurt Petska, who received $300 in Ord Area ChamberBucks.  The night then proceeded with the presentation of Chamber awards.  The results are as follows along with reasons why Chamber members nominated the winner:

Interactive Media and/or Website Development Award – Valley County Health System

“Their website is well designed, attractive and user friendly. It is always up to date and keeps visitors to the site informed of upcoming events and news happenings within the medical system.  Social Media is used to draw visitors to the website as well.”

“They have done a great job of putting news items on their website, getting involved with Facebook and keeping everyone informed.”

ExtraORDinary Young Citizen – Orrin Petska

“Orrin is a very unassuming young leader. Orrin is a student that leads by example. He never draws attention to himself as he motivates those around him to always do their best. You can always find a smile on his face and always makes time to talk to those younger and older. He helps out with the youth Ord Hoops basketball program on Sundays and is always willing to help anyone out in times of need.”

Partner in Progress – Kiley White

“Kiley always goes above and beyond with his support of Chamber activities, events and functions.”

“Kiley is active in the Chamber; is president of the Ord Rotary and a member of the Valley County Historical Society. He is also very active in his church. Kiley is always willing to give of his time and resources to help the community and those in need. He works tirelessly for the betterment of the community.”

Rising Star Award – Speed’s Apple Market

“Speed’s has been a great addition to the community. They are community minded and supportive of the Chamber & local organizations.”

“For stepping up and adding jobs to the community.”

“Great supporters of all athletic activities. A special recognition to them as they went above and beyond the call of duty to the football team during the fall season fulfilling their needs on the practice field.”

ExtraORDinary Organization – Friends of Fort Hartsuff

“Established in July of 2010, this newly formed non-profit organization has brought together a wide coalition of citizens, organizations, businesses and public agencies to attract tourists to our area and preserve and promote Fort Hartsuff.  Groups that have supported and worked through FOFH for this common goal have included the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Loup Basin RC&D, Scenic By Ways, Spelts Lumber Co., First National Bank, Ord Area Chamber, Valley County Commissioners, Valley County Economic Development, Senator Kate Sullivan, Garfield County Economic Development, Country Neighbor, Burwell Rotary, Ord Rotary, St. Paul Rotary, KNLV, KSYZ, the Valley County Historical Society, the Ord FFA and the Burwell FCLLA and drama students, the Fremont Pathfinders, historical author Jeff Barnes, the Nebraska Concrete and Aggregates Association, and Attorney Curt Siktya as well as over 100 individuals that have contributed countless hours to this effort.”

Community Development and Improvement Award – Ord Fire Department and   Volunteer Firemen

“They built a new building and improved the way the down town looks and planned for the future of our town. Committee members Randy Wilson, Joel Streff, Mike Blaha, Larry Copp, Chuck Green, Ron Upaha, Keith Shellhase, Ryan Simpson and Gene Arduser.” “What an outstanding bunch of individuals. They give a lot of time for the well-being of all of Ord and its surrounding communities. What an addition to our downtown. This is something to be proud of.”

Silver Citizen Award – Bob Stowell

“I can’t imagine the different place that our community would be without Bob’s tireless efforts to make Ord and Valley County a better place to live. Bob gives selflessly of his time, talent and resources to make our community one that we can be proud of and that young people feel good about moving back too.”

“Bob is always going to bat for the community. Bob has been a stalwart in community betterment for a long time. If we served with selflessness like Bob, this community would be a heckuva lot better.”

“Bob has been involved in many community efforts – many people don’t realize all he has done for Ord.”

ExtraORDinary Citizen – Members of the VFW, VFW Auxiliary, VFW Board, American Legion, American Legion Women, and Sons of the Legion

“These individuals contribute thousands of hours to our community. They march in parades, take tickets at Legion ball games, they raise money for uniforms and equipment for the ball teams, they raise money for scholarships for Youth Voice of Democracy and sponsor a boy and girl from our area to the state capital to learn more about government. They do the Avenue of flags at the cemetery and decorate all veteran’s graves with little flags on Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day and Veteran’s Day. They sell poppies to raise money for a relief fund for veterans and their families. They sponsor Veterans day programs at area schools, they donate their time to help serve at the Vet’s Club for weddings, hospital galas, chamber banquets, alumni banquets and other community functions that are held at the Vet’s Club. All of these individuals are unpaid volunteers, many of them veterans. All profit they make from their various activities goes back into our community. It is impossible to list them all by name, but they are certainly the cream of the crop when it comes to extraordinary citizens.”

The Honorary Lifetime Member award was presented to Bob Stowell.  Special recognition was also given to Larry Schulz, President of Valley County Economic Development, and Megan Cargill, Past President of the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce, for their generous commitment of time, support, and inspiration to their respective organizations and to the community.  Retiring Chamber Board members, Dorothy Boilesen and Denise Wray, were also recognized for their support and dedication to the community.

A special thanks to Ulrich Gravel, Diamonds Too Jewelry & Gifts, Elyria Gardens, Zangger Popcorn Hybrid, Gary & Kayla Hinrichs, A.J. Cetak’s Meat Market, and Calamity Jane’s for providing either decorations or products for the Presidents’ and guest speakers gift bags.  Economic Development and the Ord Area Chamber would also like to thank the Veteran’s Club for their hospitality and for providing a delicious meal.  Finally, thank you to the community for not only making the banquet a success, but for contributing to the growth and success of Valley County.



2010 Economic Development Annual Report

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

It’s arrived – finally! Yes, we’ve just put the final touches on the 2010 Annual report. I must say I am proud to see what we as a community have accomplished in just one year. And then to compare that with a decade of excellence? Even more gratifying!

This year’s report has quite a bit of new information contained in it. While we document the impact of the past year’s efforts at Valley County Economic Development and the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce, we also wanted to share what the businesses in our county are telling us about the local business climate and also provide the ten-year retrospective.

New Neighborhoods Groundbreaking

Have a look at the report here (.pdf). It’s a hefty 20 pages, but I think you’ll agree what have a lot to be proud of.


Taking Agriculture to the Next Level

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Are you interested in taking your farm operation to the next level? Have you thought about starting a microbrewery or vineyard? The Nebraska Value Added Ag Grant is the perfect program to do so. According to the application, “This grant program supports the collaborative development of farming and ranching; the start-up and growth of value-added agricultural enterprises; and growth of rural communities and regions.”

I know of a few vineyards in Nebraska that used this program to get a leg up or expand their operations. It’s also a really great resource for the development of ag-based entrepreneurial enterprises and local foods efforts. The 2011 application is now available on the Nebraska Rural Development Commission website – The pre-application deadline is March 18 and the final application is due by noon on April 7, 2011. You can download the application directly here (.doc).

One final thought and an important one: this program will likely be gone after this year if those changes I’ve been talking about happen to state economic development programs. So get on it and grow that next value added ag business!


Social Media Webcast Available to Local Businesses

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Another great webinar is coming up for our local businesses that teaches the value of using social media as a tool for growing business opportunities. You can read the details from our friends over at Frontier Communications below. Also, please excuse our complete lack of blogging lately – we’re very, very swamped with projects at this point in time, along with our annual banquet coming this weekend. I think a few gray hairs will be found after this week! ~ Caleb

Columbus, NE –– What do Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” and one of the films nominated for Best Picture this year have in common?  They both involve Social Media, ways of connecting with friends, colleagues, and target audiences that a company ignores at its peril.

Since it’s vital to know how to use Social Media effectively, Frontier Communications will present a free live webcast on Social Media channels and their ramification on businesses.  Two well-known experts will discuss the pros, cons and “how to’s” for engaging in Social Media. The one-hour webinar will be held on Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 11 a.m. CDT. More information and registration details are available at A replay of the webcast will also be available following the web event at

“Whether your business is active in Social Media or you’re just an interested observer, it now touches every facet of business life,” said Dan Staack, General Manager, Frontier. “This webinar will offer ways businesses can participate, how to engage in social media communications, reputation management and how to enhance media activity. The webinar will be helpful for business owners as well as marketing and PR professionals and customer service, sales and business development managers.”

The webcast will feature experts Shama Kamini, President, Marketing Zen Group, and Albert Maruggi, Founder and President, Provident Partners.

Kamini was recognized by Business Week as one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” in 2009 and has been named one of the “10 Most Influential and Powerful Women in Social Media.” She hosts a popular web-based TV show on business and technology and is a frequent commentator about business and technology trends. She is the author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing — the #1 bestseller in web marketing. Kamini holds a Masters degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Texas at Austin.

Maruggi is host and producer of the Marketing Edge podcast and a senior fellow at the Society of New Communications Research. With a 25-year career in broadcast journalism, national politics, corporate marketing and venture capital, Maruggi is a well-rounded and knowledgeable resource on new media and consumer engagement.  His company, Provident Partners, serves a wide array of clients, from business consultants to software developers, publishers to governors, using Social Media to help them achieve business goals.

Topics to be covered during the webinar include:

- How to build your business to get positive comments

- Ways to monitor and determine the cost of negative comments to your business

- How group buying programs like GroupOn may drive new revenue to your business

- Best practices on Facebook and Twitter

This webinar is part of an ongoing series of web events hosted by Frontier and follows a highly successful disaster planning broadcast held in January.

For more information, contact Dan Staack at 402-563-9321 or


Gems in the Valley

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Welcome to the second installment of Gems in the Valley – our effort to recognize unique spots in the Loup Valley. Last time we posted about Miletta Vista in Howard County, a gem of a business set in a unique location in the North Loup Valley. There they make some of my favorite wine, period.

This time around we’re going to talk about one of my very favorite spots to unwind – Davis Creek Reservoir and Wildlife Management Area. Davis Creek is a little-known fishing hot spot that also has a multitude of outdoor activities to enjoy. Located 18 miles south of Ord and just five miles off of Nebraska Hwy 11 (through North Loup), Davis Creek is open 24 hours and produces some of the best walleye fishing in the state. Fish species include walleye, crappie, yellow perch, channel catfish, and bullhead, with an abundance of prairie wildlife found in the surrounding state wildlife management area (Nebraska Game and Parks has fishing regulations and permits here). For 2011, Nebraska Game and Parks is forecasting white bass fishing at Davis Creek as “exceptional”.

Fall means hunting – deer, pheasant, quail, grouse, prairie chicken, waterfowl, turkey and much more can be harvested during the hunting season. A Nebraska hunting license is required, and you can read the hunting regulations here. Don’t forget, if you’re hunting waterfowl in Nebraska, you’re going to need a federal duck stamp and non-lead shot.

Bald EagleDuring winter months, Davis Creek is also one of the best places in all of the Loup Valley to watch bald eagles. It also has just about every prairie bird species that a birder worth their salt would expect to find in the Central Great Plains. Additionally, expect to see deer, fox, coyotes and bobcats (if you’re lucky and really quiet).

Davis Creek has primitive camping services – no modern restrooms and no electrical hook-ups. There is something about a primitive camping location that seems to keep all but the die-hards away, which I honestly think is great. Crowds are non-existent and you’ll have plenty of chances to commune with nature as you see fit. Of those that do frequent this spot regularly, often mention it reverently as one of the best kept secrets in Nebraska. If you go expecting a hot shower and a convenience store, Davis Creek isn’t for you.

Things to Do: Year round activities include boating, camping, hiking (primitive and trail), hunting, picnicking, RV camping, water sports and wildlife viewing. Be sure to try some primitive trail hiking – the thousands of acres of wildlife management area give you reign to hike freely. While I highly recommend it, please be mindful of where you step during the summer months. Free hiking means observing the “Leave No Trace” ethic – be gentle where you tread. Also, taking a dog with you during the summer nesting season is both illegal and burdensome to the grassland and upland bird species that are actively raising their brood (like quail, pheasants, grouse, prairie chickens, etc.).

How to Get There: You can reach Davis Creek Reservoir by heading XXX south of North Loup. The map below can help you get there or you can learn more about Davis Creek here.

View Larger Map

How Much Will it Cost Me? That’s the beauty of Davis Creek – it’s free. No park entry permit is required and parking is free. You can enjoy the prairie wetland habitat and the multitude of wildlife for the cost of travel and your time.

IF you do go, take your camera and share with us – we’ll post your photos online throughout the year. Have fun out there!


What Does Ten Years of Economic Development Look Like?

Friday, February 11th, 2011

We are finalizing our 2010 Annual Report for our upcoming 2010 Awards Banquet (woo hoo!) and have added a new feature to this year’s report: a look back at ten years of economic development in Valley County. The look back is quite striking – it’s also a major reason for the “why” of why I moved to the community. I wanted to be part of something special, something that was remarkable given all the chips stacked against Ord and Valley County. I’m a sucker for an underdog (the reason why I think this game is the greatest in college football history).

While we continue to have our challenges like population out-migration and the issues that family farm consolidation can present, you have to remember the peak county population in Valley County was 1920. Demographic change in Valley County has been a 90-year trend; ten years of positive economic development won’t arrest that decline entirely. Economic development has been one of the institutions of change that has helped to create a new sense of hope, a new sense of acheivement for a community that in 2000 looked like countless other community across the Great Plains and Upper Midwest. In 2000, we were dying.

Today is different: we have a newly renovated downtown, new primary employers like the ethanol plant and export-based manufacturers, a new hospital, a newly renovated school, a new fire hall, a new housing development, two industrial parks, a beautiful and newly renovated walking trail and fishing pond at Aubles, a new community college presence and most importantly – a new sense of hope for the future. Young people are moving back; new businesses are opening and existing businesses are being passed to a new generation of owners.

We are now looked at as a national model for rural development excellence. Why? In ten years, Valley County has seen 105 new businesses created, 20 business expansions and 22 business transfers. Public-private investment has totaled more than $120 million dollars. Don’t believe us? Here’s the proof. And when you calculate that we lost only 22/105 businesses during that time, you can see we’re far short of the national business failure rate of 50% at five years.

So, you may ask, what does ten years of development actually look like in data form? Are you, the Valley County taxpayer, getting anything for your tax support of economic development? We think so – look at the data below and evaluate whether you feel that is the case.

Here’s to the next ten years. We’re looking forward to conquering the challenges in front of us.

Median Household Income Growth

Non-Farm Employment Growth

Retail Pull Growth


International Business Interest & Activity Survey

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Our good friend Shawn Kaskie from UNK’s Center for Rural Research and Development is assisting the College of Business and Technology track down educational funding for international business efforts. They are asking our local business community that is involved with international trade to fill out a short seven-question survey below. Please pass this along to anyone you can think of – thank you for your help! ~ Caleb

The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s College of Business and Technology is applying for a second round of funding from the U. S. Department of Education’s Title VI B Business and International Education Program.  The Business and International Education Program provides grants to enhance international business education programs and to expand the capacity of the business community to engage in international economic activities.

The grant application “Innovating for Global Entrepreneurship (I4GE): Increasing International Business Competitiveness in Rural Nebraska” activities are focused on the development of international business curriculum, educational training and workshops in international business for all target populations (students, faculty, and regional entrepreneurs), mentoring programs and international internships for students, international study abroad opportunities for Nebraska UNK students and faculty, and international faculty development opportunities.

The grant application process requires that we demonstrate local community and business need and/or support.  Therefore, we would like for you to take 5 minutes of your time to share with us your thoughts on the proposed new activities/programs in our application. You can take the survey here.


Killer Marketing Ideas and Other Survival Tactics for Small Business Owners

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Our friends over at the Center for Rural Affairs have a good read for the upcoming MarketPlace Conference in Kearney. If you haven’t attended, you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to learn how to build a better business to be more successful, and ultimately, more profitable. Shoot us an email if you have questions – see you at MarketPlace!

Lyons, NE – Past surveys of entrepreneurs and small business owners who have attended MarketPlace reveal that one of the top rated experiences at past MarketPlace events was participation in sessions focused on marketing and business success strategies.  In response to that  popular demand, the Center for Rural Affairs is again featuring sessions on these topics at Nebraska’s premier entrepreneurship event, MarketPlace, which will take place in Kearney, NE on Tuesday, February 22nd and Wednesday, February 23rd.

Dave Buchholz, President and Creative Director of David & Associates is one of several marketing specialists that will offer their expertise to business owners at MarketPlace.  Dave will present “20 Killer Marketing Ideas” during the pre-conference on Tuesday.

“Many small business owners are very good at doing what they do, but they struggle with marketing and advertising,” said Buchholz. “During this session, we will provide down-to-earth, practical ideas that any business can use to better focus their marketing efforts. There will be plenty of time for questions and issues that are on the minds of participants.”

Buchholz says that participants of the session will learn 20 attention getting, easy to implement marketing tactics that are sure to strengthen relationships with current customers—and gain new ones.  Participants will also discover how to improve their direct mail program, and increase the impact and cost-effectiveness of their advertising expenditures. “You’re bound to find many of these ideas applicable to your business—and you’ll be able to put them to work as soon as you get back home. Best of all, most of these ideas don’t cost a lot of money!”

According to John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs Media Director, Buchholz and the other specialists at Marketplace provide a level of marketing expertise that most entrepreneurs could never hope to access. At previous conferences, Buchholz has presented to standing-room-only crowds and received rave reviews.

On Wednesday, Jeff Reynolds of the Center for Rural Affairs will be presenting “Small Business Survival Skills 101,” a session that is for both startup and existing small businesses and will provide tips for successfully running a small business. “In this economy, many, if not most, small businesses are operating on very tight budgets to simply get by. Some call this ‘bootstrapping’ or operating on a ‘shoestring.’ In either case, it is possible to successfully operate a business on a shoestring,” said Reynolds.

Business owners and entrepreneurs will have many opportunities to attend other sessions during MarketPlace that will help out in a challenging economy. For instance several financial sessions will illustrate the major components of a successful business plan and putting together a viable set of financial projections. Marketing sessions will demonstrate how to create a unique brand message, improve the effectiveness of advertising, and strengthen relationships with customers. Participants can attend networking sessions to sharpen networking skills and grow their business. Agriculture related business owners can attend sessions on building local food networks, tools and dollars for beginning farmers, agritourism, organic farming and incentive programs available.

New this year is the RZ (Resource Zone) Bounce.  Limited to six  business owners or potential business owners who will be selected by application, the RZ  Bounce is an opportunity for a small business or potential business owner to get 15 minutes with business and marketing experts.  They will be able to describe their business and explain what their challenges are and then the experts will offer suggestions and resources they should consider.

Buchholz, who has also been an attendee for the past four years, knows the value MarketPlace provides to attendees. “Many entrepreneurs start a business because they are passionate about something or really good at something. But they don’t necessarily know as much as they should about the nuts and bolts of running a business. The value of MarketPlace lies in the fact that experts in all these critical areas are in one place along with scores of people who are potential partners, vendors and customers,” said Buchholz. “The Center for Rural Affairs has a passion for helping rural entrepreneurs succeed, and is a great resource for people looking to start or grow a small business, and their Marketplace conferences are excellent examples of the value of that resource.”

MarketPlace will feature up to 52 exhibitor booths in the Resource Zone filled with successful small businesses, service providers, and other conference sponsors. Attendees will be able to meet with experts in many fields – attorneys, web designers, etc. – who will be available throughout the day to answer participant questions.

MarketPlace educational tracks include Business Development, Finance, Marketing, Community Development, Agriculture, Technology, Youth, Policy and Innovation. Entrepreneurs with ideas for start-up businesses, established businesses, agricultural businesses, and youth businesses will find topics of interest.

“In order for people to take advantage of the super early bird registration deal they must register by February 11, 2011,” commented Joy Marshall, Center for Rural Affairs. “Just $35 a ticket is quite a bargain for all this expertise in one location. We don’t want them to miss out on this great opportunity.”

The 2011 Nebraska MarketPlace Conference will be held at the Ramada Convention Center, 301 2nd Avenue, Kearney, NE. For more information on MarketPlace and a full look at this year’s program or to register, visit . Or contact Joy Marshall,, (402) 614- 5558

The Center for Rural Affairs is an equal opportunity provider and employer.



News from the Valley

Friday, February 4th, 2011

January is over and February is here! That means another economic development report from the Loup Valley. This month’s newsletter has tons of nuggets on the continued growth and development witnessed in Valley County. This month you’ll read up on:

- Legislative Update
- Sales tax report
- Economic Growth in 2010
- The Impact of Buying Local
- Chamber Business News
- Tourism & Promotions News
- Newcomers Committee

You can download the report here. As always, we’d love to hear from you!


Economic Trends Report Show Resilience of Local Economy

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The latest economic trends report is in – courtesy of our partners over at Nebraska Public Power District (hat tip to Jenny O). I’ve been looking forward to digging through this information because I wanted to see the measurable impact that the 2008 recession left in Valley County. Interestingly, little evidence of a recession was recorded. Yes, we have an economic dip, but overall, our resilience is shown in the fact we continue to create jobs at a much greater rate than statewide averages. That coincides with a return to pre-recession unemployment of 2.9%. You can see the results below.

Another area of interest I discovered what the condition of the local retail community. If you’re a frequent reader here, you’ve seen before how we’ve documented our efforts to promote buy local programs like the Ord Option and ChamberBucks to keep local consumer’s dollars in the local retail community. According to the study, our pull factor in Ord (a measure of the local retail economy’s strength) was at its highest levels since 1990. You got that right – the strongest its been in twenty-one years. That’s pretty impressive and another strong sign that our buy local programs are working. It also proves, in my opinion, the relative strength of the ag economy – retail does well when farmers are feeling flush with income.

While I’m thrilled with the news, not all of the report is glowing for us in Valley County. We still contend with out-migration factors of our youth; too many locals drive too far for work and our wages are still below the statewide average, even if they have improved significantly over the past 10 years. And while many of these factors are improving, there is still plenty of work to be done about each issue.

You can download the report here. We’d like to hear back from you – do you agree with the information found in the report? Are you feeling like the local economy is growing? We often hear from the loud local minority that it isn’t, but data doesn’t lie. Growth is occurring in Valley County.