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The Prosperity Project ~ Overview
The Prosperity Project is the outgrowth of Vision 2020, a joint project of the Phelps County Development Corporation, Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce, Phelps Memorial Health Center and the Phelps County Community Foundation to join community stakeholders in a discussion of what Holdrege and Phelps County should look like in the future — and what it’s going to take to get there.
At the end of that process and in discussion with the Chamber and other agencies, the Phelps County Development Corporation (PCDC) was given three key responsibilities:
- To site, secure and develop a business and industry park;
- To be able to provide financial incentives to help existing businesses expand and to encourage new businesses and industries to locate in Phelps County; and
- To appropriately market Holdrege to targeted industries as well as to workers — including alumni — to fill the jobs that are expected to be created.
Why it’s needed
In general, Phelps County has a healthy economy. The agricultural sector, far and away our largest economic driver, remained strong through the recession of 2008, allowing us to weather the downturn relatively unscathed. However, every farmer knows that it’s wise to plan for lean times during times of abundance.
The long-term trend in vast swaths of rural America is that young people are leaving and not returning, resulting in both a population loss and an aging citizenry requiring increased social services. As towns lose population, they lose businesses; as the businesses go, the quality of life drops; as the quality of life diminishes, the town’s chances of ever recovering population diminish with it.
That’s not what we want for Phelps County.
It’s about jobs
The PCDC Board and business and community leaders designed the Prosperity Project initiative to focus on primary job creation and capital investment. Businesses that create primary jobs import “new” money into an economy and are the foundation that drives the growth of business and consumer services. Adhering to this economic principle, each initiative has a reasonable target and resources have been strategically allocated as follows:
- 58% of resources devoted to helping existing Phelps County businesses and industries grow and prosper;
- 41% of resources devoted to attracting new employers and capital investment to Phelps County; and,
- 1% of resources devoted to strengthening communications, investor relations, and planning.
Action Plan (2012-2016)
The Prosperity Project consists of four action programs and fourteen strategic initiatives. The core initiative is to seek out an appropriate site for a business-industrial park, secure it for development, and do what it takes to encourage new or expanding local businesses to locate there. Click here to see the five-year plan of work.
The plan includes leveraging financial resources to be able to offer grants and incentives as well as low-cost loans for expanding, new, transitioning, and startup businesses. These funds would also be available to help in the Chamber’s future downtown revitalization program as well as to existing businesses planning to expand.
The Prosperity Project identifies specific industries to target as the most likely prospects and will launch an aggressive marketing campaign to communicate the benefits of locating in Phelps County to them. Among the targeted industries are value-added agricultural companies as well as those in the agricultural supply chain. In addition, the plan recommends engaging an investor group in designing a feasibility grant program for emerging agricultural technologies.
The plan seeks to inspire and recruit talent to fill the jobs it expects to create. Among the initiatives proposed are training programs for unskilled labor, special assistance for entrepreneurs and startups, and a scholarship program designed to encourage youth to return to the area to work after they’ve earned a degree. A marketing program to recruit alumni and others to the area will also be launched.
The Prosperity Project aims to collaborate with other area development agencies and to improve relations with investors, partner organizations, and county-wide stakeholders through structured and continuous communications.