Archive for August, 2011

Envisioning a Bold Future for Ord and Valley County

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Ord and Valley County has so much to offer in the way of history, heritage, culture and character. A great deal of work has been done to bring new businesses to the downtown, support the community with quality health care, invest in education for future generations and develop safe and healthy neighborhoods. Local leadership plans to take that activity to the logical next step and prepare an ambitious plan to revitalize the downtown, activities and businesses operating not only in Ord but also across Valley County.

Sponsored by the Valley County Economic Development Board, with the help of Professor Kim Wilson of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Landscape Architecture Program and Sandy Scofield of the UNL Rural Initiative, an effort is planned for this fall to do just that. With the help of eight planning and architecture students, local leadership will be looking at ways to tackle local challenges and continue down a path of community and economic development excellence.

The semester-long project gives the UNL students hands-on experience and locals receive results in the form of a framework plan for Ord and Valley County. This holistic approach is not going to be something that collects dust on the top shelf. The outcome will be full of ideas for community improvement projects, methods to involve the citizenry, a variety of approaches to consider and suggestions based on community input.

It all begins September 7-8 when the UNL students arrive in Ord for two days. They will be looking for input in the form of an engaging small group session. VCED wants to include all levels of organizations (official and loosely organized), all ages, socio-economics, businesses, potential investors, entrepreneurs, new comers, students. Anyone who cares about how Ord and Valley looks now, and will look like 10, 20 or 50 years from now is welcome and encouraged to attend an input session. The session will be held the evening of Thursday, September 8th , from 6:00 – 8:00 PM at Central Community College Ord Learning Center, 1514 K Street. Refreshments will be provided.

Make plans now to join us. Be included in our future! We want your input, involvement, and innovative ideas. For more information call Caleb Pollard, Executive Director, Valley County Economic Development at (308) 728-7875.


Small Business Development Driving Growth

Friday, August 26th, 2011

The Daily Yonder, an authority on rural issues, has a great read that affirms the economic development strategy in Ord and Valley County: small, local businesses speed income growth. Apparently, researchers at Penn State have found counties with more with locally-owned small businesses have stronger econonomic growth rates than those with firms owned outside the county.

From the article:

Jamaica Me Tan Ribbon Cutting

Jamaica Me Tan Ribbon Cutting

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have found that counties with more small, locally owned businesses have stronger economic growth than communities with larger businesses owned by outsiders. “Local ownership matters in important ways,” said economist Stephan Goetz who was co-author of the study with David Fleming, a Penn State graduate student. “Smaller, locally owned businesses, it turns out, provide higher, long-term economic growth.”

The reason is simple: local business owners don’t outsource – they buy local. That internal capacity builds upon itself and as the old saying goes, “a rising tide raises all ships.”

The article continues to point out that local economic development strategy should be internally focused on developing small businesses from within. At Valley County Economic Development, we couldn’t agree more. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might recall an article we published earlier this month called Rural Revitalization Starts From Within.

Just recently we articulated how this internally-focused strategy has not only grown our local economy but also created powerful systems that reinforce our small business community. Recall our sales tax program for economic development: since 2003, our fund (paid for by a 1% sales tax levy) has loaned over $2.2 million dollars to over 37 small businesses.

That’s not chump change. That’s real progress. These systems also lend to the major reason why our downtown is nearly full of businesses and why our sales tax receipts for economic development in the month of June were at a near record. Our strategy is perpetuating growth because of its internal focus. This doesn’t mean that we ignore recruitment projects when they come along. It means that our priority is to grow from within first. That should be every rural communities choice.

Someone from the outside isn’t going to save you. You can only save yourself.


Analysis: Census in Ord’s Favor

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Editorial: Future of Valley County Depends on Working Together – Caleb Pollard

If you look deeper into the trends of the recent 2010 Census, you’ll find very clear distinctions between Ord and rural Valley County. For the Ord census track, a 5.0% decline occurred. That diverges from a forty-year trend of double-digit decline. Valley County’s decline as a whole dropped to 8.3% from double digit decline the ninety years prior. While I would call this mildly-good news, the devil can be found in the details. The contrast is sharp: rural Valley County witnessed 12.2% decline.

Ord High School Improvements

The finishing touches on the new Chanticleer gym

It also clearly defines the disparity between Ord and rural Valley County. You’re seeing the decline’s impact in school consolidation and empty storefronts. It’s evident. If you compare that to the past thirty years, where each decade witnessed double-digit declination, 2010 was quite a positive sign for Ord. It should serve as an alarm for the rest of Valley County.

If an aggressive county-wide campaign to stabilize population decline isn’t created in partnership with each village, Ord will continue to grow at the expense of the rest of the county. It doesn’t take more than one look that Ord is growing economically. The facts don’t lie. It showcases clearly that an aggressive community improvement campaign can have a tangible impact. To do so, it requires major local leadership to work together. Each village, Valley County, each school district, Valley County Economic Development, the City of Ord, the Loup Valley Ag Society and Loup Rivers Rural Public Power District must work together to make it happen. The futures of North Loup and Arcadia don’t lie with outliers like Greeley, Wolbach and Ansley. They lie within the capacity for Valley County to grow together. If you take a snapshot of the reality, this cooperation is clearly not happening.

Our communities survival depend on our ability to work together. It also demands that we reach out to other counties and community to ensure a mutual cooperation for mutual survival. Nobody is going to build our future for us. We have to do it for ourselves. Can we be a sustainable county? Most don’t think we can – yet our future depends on it. I know very well that we have the resources exist to do this. The willpower to work together does not.

Are we going to sit back and let the gravity of history define our future?


2011 North Loup Popcorn Days

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

The 2011 North Loup Popcorn Days celebration will begin Friday, August 26 with a pig scramble, 4D barrel racing, voting for Popcorn Queen, a Free Polka Dance, and more.  Saturday, August 27 and Sunday, August 28 will also be filled with fun, family events, not to mention all of the free popcorn you can eat, all weekend long. 

You can download a complete schedule of events here

North Loup Popcorn Days


Town Hall Meeting Scheduled

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

The City of Ord is calling a public forum to listen to feedback on the future of the Ord Police Department. The meeting will be at the Valley County Fairgrounds on August 31st at 7pm.

The purpose of this meeting is to obtain public input regarding the City of Ord’s 2011-2012 budget.  Due to budget constraints, the city is considering contracting with the county for law enforcement.  The City Council welcomes opinions, comments, and suggestions from the public.  If you are unable to attend this meeting, feel free to send written comments to your City Council Members at P.O. Box 96, Ord, NE 68862.

Comments left on this blog post will be forwarded to City Council for review.


Legacy Gift Honors Former OHS Business Teacher

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Our friends at the Nebraska Community Foundation have relased information on a gift from the family of Mrs. Helen Kokes that will benefit the HomeTown Competitiveness Endowment within the Valley County Community Foundation Fund.  You can read the complete article below:


Legacy Gift Honors Former Ord High School Business Teacher

A gift in memory of Mrs. Helen Kokes, a long-time Ord High School business education teacher, will provide opportunities for lifelong learning to Valley County residents for years to come. The $60,000 gift was given by the family of Mrs. Kokes’ daughter, Dot Kokes Speidel, of Minneapolis.  The gift was made to the HomeTown Competitiveness Endowment within the Valley County Community Foundation Fund.

Mrs. Helen Kokes

In the years she taught, Mrs. Kokes helped prepare a generation of students for careers in business, particularly as support staff.

“My mother was a passionate supporter of good public education for students in rural areas,” said Ms. Speidel.  “The developments that we’re seeing in Ord, such as the Ord Learning Center through Central Community College, would have pleased her. Lifelong learning for people of all ages, whether it’s related to your career or your personal life, is so important,” Ms. Speidel said.

Helen (Hamsa) Kokes grew up on a farm in Colfax County.  She started teaching in a one-room schoolhouse after graduating from high school at the age of 16. 

“She had 48 students at one point,” said Ms. Speidel. “I imagine some of the boys were bigger than she was, and maybe even older! My mother was always very sensitive to kids in rural places. She thought it important that they, as much as others, deserve every opportunity to develop to their full potential.”   Mrs Kokes and her two younger brothers all graduated from the University of Nebraska.

Mrs. Kokes’ teaching career at Ord High School began in 1922 when she was newly graduated from the university..  She returned to teaching in 1947 and taught until 1964, with a three-year break when, in 1952, she was elected to the Ord school board, the first woman to serve in that position. The 1951 Ord High School yearbook was dedicated to her.

Although skills required for business now reflect monumental technological advances of our time, Gregg shorthand, bookkeeping and typing on manual typewriters were once vitally important skills needed by office workers. And although those functions may now be performed in different ways, workplace experience of the kind Mrs. Kokes arranged and supervised for her students sometimes makes the difference between whether a business succeeds or fails, she said.

During her more than 40 years of living in Ord, Mrs. Kokes was active in many community organizations and also served as state president of the Nebraska Business and Professional Women’s Club. She was married to Edward L. Kokes, son of early Ord immigrant Vincent Kokes. She died in 1965.

“I think that having a statewide community foundation is wonderful,” said Ms. Speidel.  It was interesting to look at a map of all the communities that the Nebraska Community Foundation serves.  By having a community fund in places like Valley County, people have a way to help make life better by giving back to help they themselves had once received.” 

The Valley County Community Foundation Fund is an affiliated fund of the Nebraska Community Foundation. VCCFF supports community education, recreation, health services, leadership and economic development throughout Valley County. 

The Nebraska Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) corporation which provides tax-exempt status, financial management, strategic development and education/training services to 209 communities, organizations and donor-advised funds across the state. Since its founding in 1993, NCF and its affiliated funds have reinvested more than $118 million in Nebraska.


2011 Fall Photo Contest

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Valley County Tourism and the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce will once again be hosting a seasonal photo contest.  You will have the opportunity to submit photos, representative of each month’s theme, for a chance to win Ord Area ChamberBucks.  The guidelines for the contest are below:

- Photos must be taken in Valley County.
- An individual may only submit one photo per month (per theme).
- Photos from the 2009 and 2010 contests are not allowed to be resubmitted.
- Photos must be submitted in digital format.
- Participants are not required to reside in Valley County.
- Professional photographers are allowed to compete in this competition.
- Valley County Tourism and the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce reserve the right to use submitted photos in any online or print publication.

A total of $1,200 in total prize moneywill be awarded throughout the course of this contest.  The prize for each month’s first place photo is $200 in Ord ChamberBucks.  Second place photos for each month will receive $100 in Ord ChamberBucks.  Prizes can be claimed at the Ord Area Chamber office, 1514 K Street. 

The 2011 contest themes and deadlines are as follows:

- September: High School Sports in Valley County (Friday, September 23, 2011)
- October: Fall Harvest (Friday, October 21, 2011)
- November: What Are You Thankful For? (Friday, November 18, 2011)
- December: Snowy Days (Friday, December 23, 2011)

Photo by Joan Sintek, July 2010: Wildlife Watching, 1st Place

Photos must be submitted by 5:00 pm on the deadlines listed above. Voting will take place on during the last week of each month.  The photographer’s name will not be listed during the week of voting.  Once voting is over and winners are announced, each photo will be displayed with credit to the photographer.  Winners will be announced on the last Friday of each month.  Announcements will be made on, the Ord, NE Facebook page and on OrdNE Twitter.

Photos can be emailed to or saved on a CD and delivered to the Ord Chamber office, 1514 K Street.  The following information must also be submitted: photographers name, phone number, mailing address, e-mail address, and description of the photo (e.g. location).  Questions regarding the 2011 Fall Photo Contest can be sent to Kristina at


Town Hall Scheduled with Senator Sullivan

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Our very own 41st District representative, Nebraska State Senator Kate Sullivan, will be hosting a town hall in Ord on September 14th at the Ord Learning Center (1514 K Street).

Nebraska State Senator Kate Sullivan

Join the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce, Valley County Economic Development and local leaders in a discussion about issues that affect our communities and you, the rural resident. We’d also like to know: what do you want to know from our Senator? Are you concerned about property taxes? State-aid to schools? This is YOUR opportunity to speak your piece to your elected representative. The town hall starts at 11am.

One particular item that might be worthy of discussion is LB 226. You can download a copy of the resolution here. The legislative resolution has created an interim study to look at “rural opportunity zones” or ways to repopulate rural Nebraska communities. The study is based off of a similar program in Kansas that was enacted into law this past year (you can see the bill here).

Readers: do you think a re-population bill can positively grow our local economy?


Nebraska Fifth in Business-Friendliness

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Add another economic development feather in Nebraska’s cap: we’re #5 out of 50 in business-friendliness. Our friends from DED have the skinny below. A quick question: what does this ranking mean to you?

Nebraska is fifth in Pollina’s Top 10 Pro-Business States ranking

(Lincoln, Neb.) Nebraska has been named one of America’s ten most business-friendly states for 2011 by Pollina Corporate Real Estate, Inc., a national leader in corporate site selection based in Chicago. The ranking is based on independent research conducted by Pollina.

Nebraska ranked fifth, only behind Virginia, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming. It also moved up a spot from its 2010 sixth-place ranking. States rounding out the top ten were Kansas, South Dakota, Missouri, South Carolina and Indiana.

“You can’t hold Nebraska back! Nebraska has once again climbed on the list of pro-business states, moving from #6 to #5,” said Dr. Ronald R. Pollina.  “In 2008, Nebraska held the #15 position and has climbed ten positions in just three years. Governor Dave Heineman’s inspired political leadership coupled with economic development powerhouses give state residents much to be proud of.”

“Nebraska again serves as a beacon for all states to replicate when it comes to retaining and growing jobs and businesses in the nation,” said Richard J. Baier, Director, Nebraska Department of Economic Development. “We have continued to improve our business-friendly atmosphere, and Pollina, among other national experts, acknowledges our state’s economic development growth.”

The report states that Nebraska had an excellent Stage I-Labor, Taxes and Other Factors rank of 6th.  In addition, Nebraska has low unemployment and low state budget deficit, as well as Right-to-Work status. In terms of Stage II-Incentives and Economic Development Agency Factors, Nebraska continued its strong showing by placing 10th, reflecting its emphasis on providing tools necessary for businesses to grow.

“Many companies need to stop thinking about Nebraska as just an agricultural state. With less than three percent of its labor force employed in agriculture, Governor Heineman is clearly focused on building diverse job opportunities for his state’s citizens,” said Dr. Pollina.

Considered one of the most, if not the most comprehensive study of its type, the Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States annual study analyzes and identifies the most effective state governments at creating pro-business environments. The study examines 32 factors controlled by state government, including taxation, human resources, infrastructure, economic incentive programs and state economic development efforts.

Since 2004, the study has been covered by The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CBS, NBC, CNN and NPR, as well as TV and radio stations, and newspapers across the nation. Several reports consider the Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States study to be the “Gold Standard” by which all states should be judged.




Applications Available for Rolling Hills Townhomes

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Applications for the Rolling Hills Townhomes in Ord are available at the Valley County Economic Development office, 1514 K Street.  The initial application will start the process of calculating an individual’s annual income and determining their eligibility to rent a townhouse at Rolling Hills Townhomes. 

If you have further questions regarding the Rolling Hills Townhomes please contact Mary McCain, Compliance & Rental Agent for Mesner Development, at (308) 946-3826.