York County Development Corporation holds annual membership banquet

YORK — The York County Development Corporation (YCDC) held its annual membership banquet Tuesday evening, March 12, at the York Country Club.

Guest speakers were Bryan Slone, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, and K.C. Belitz, Nebraska Department of Economic Development director.

Also speaking to the members on hand were this year’s YCDC president, Eric Montgomery, and YCDC Director Lisa Hurley.

As part of YCDC’s annual meeting, the organization names individuals who are recipients of this year’s Impact Awards. These are people who have impacted the community through their volunteer work, business affiliations and efforts to better the York County community. This year’s recipients are Doug Rood, Kimm Klute and Zac Holoch.

During an earlier interview, Hurley reflected back on the last year and the work YCDC has done to promote economic development and the York County community as a whole.

“Our team is constantly working to attract businesses and top talent to this wonderful region. Throughout 2023, YCDC developed several programs, received grants and reached its goals to make York County stand out. We are happy that York County is starting to be recognized as a leading region in the state. However, our work is just beginning and we will look for new channels to promote our businesses and workforce in 2024 and beyond.”

She explained how YCDC is focused on growing the local workforce so companies can have a larger talent pool from which to choose. “Housing infrastructure is a significant part of this,” Hurley said. “In 2023, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development awarded $1 million to YCDC to support its revolving loan fund. YCDC is working with the city and developers to plan a housing development near Mincks Park.

“And along with building new homes, YCDC is working with companies to breathe new life into old structures,” she continued. “YCDC met with EpWorks LLC, a local company transforming an orphanage (Epworth Village campus) built in the 1880s into a building designed to support local youth and families. This campus has had three building renovations which house approximately 100 tenants. There will be further projects on the campus down the road.”

YCDC partnered with local schools and universities for workforce development as well. “Throughout the year, YCDC partnered with York Public Schools and York University to help students develop the skills they need,” she said. “York area schools worked with Cyclonaire to establish an intern program; there was career exploration at YCDC’s Regional Career Day; manufacturing companies and York County students connected through events in October; York University held a career fair which connected local employers with quality students. YCDC has seen success by working directly with companies to see what they need from the workforce. Their efforts help young people choose the best classes, internships and training seminars to prepare them to fill job openings once they graduate. These relationships are mutually beneficial because the students build stronger resumes and skill sets while employers have a larger talent pool in York from which to hire.”

Also in 2023, YCDC staff members were recognized as leaders in economic development. Hurley was elected as First Vice President of the National Rural Economic Developers Association (she had previously served as the secretary/treasurer of the organization). Emily Perry, the development coordinator for YCDC, graduated from the Policy Leadership Academy put on by First Five Nebraska, which provides the tools to analyze York County’s early childhood infrastructure and develop policies supporting the community. Perry also attended the Heartland Economic Development Course with 90 other industry professionals, which provides fundamental economic development training provided by the University of Northern Iowa.

YCDC continues to work with community partners to close the childcare gap which exists. “YCDC has been able to work toward establishing more opportunities for quality, adequate childcare throughout York County. This can be seen with the lowering of York County’s gap number (the number of children who currently have inadequate care) from 316 down to 153,” Hurley said.

“As a community, we have made significant strides towards closing the childcare gap,” Perry said. “With help from partners, we have been able to work toward establishing more opportunities for quality, adequate childcare throughout the county. This includes start-up assistance, current childcare expansions and other initiatives with the goal to expand county childcare capacity.” She said YCDC will continue prioritizing the creation of additional childcare spots in 2024 and beyond.

Hurley said YCDC continues to look for unique ways to engage the community. Staff developed a variety of channels to connect with local businesses and residents. The city participated in Small business Week and Economic Development Week. Mayor Barry Redfern issued a proclamation highlighting the role of economic development as essential for promoting the well-being and quality of life of residents. Businesses can also connect with YCDC through the 17-County Leadership Program, designed for local entrepreneurs and business owners to develop plans to grow their enterprises in the future. And there is the YCDC podcast – 17-County – which is dedicated “to the hidden gems of rural life and thriving in small town infrastructure.”

“2023 was a strong year for YCDC,” Hurley said. “YCDC was able to help York County improve its housing outlook, grow student skill sets and create a better place for businesses.”

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