Saturday, September 19, 2015

FLASHBACK: Nebraska Towns Set Example for Others

(This article originally ran in October 2007.)

Once again, we turn our attention to central Nebraska and its efforts to retain their youth and recruit young families back to their hometowns.

A recent article in The Grand Island Independent highlights small-town economic development proponents in central Nebraska who are aggressively seeking new ways stabilize their population and grow their economy. According to the Independent, Nancy Glaubke, the business development coordinator for Valley County Economic Development in Ord, said that decades ago, returning home usually meant you had failed someplace else. But now, after realizing the potential consequences of losing too many young people, she has seen her community begin to champion efforts to reverse that trend.

Valley County Economic Development launched a Young Professionals group last winter to nudge its younger residents toward making valuable social connections. The group was formed after a community survey revealed a resounding message from its young people: It's hard to get to know people my own age, and it's even tougher to get involved when it seems like everyone has known one another for most of their lives.

"We just kept hearing that over and over," said Bethanne Kunz, Valley County Economic Development's executive director. So the group started simply, with a Husker game last fall. They've steadily added names to a countywide database that's alerted to social events geared toward singles, couples and young families. Their database has grown to 170 adults under age 40. Ord is one of four Central Nebraska communities that have kicked off networking groups for young professionals in the past year, joining Grand Island, Hastings and Aurora.

To recruit natives back to their hometown, several communities have started targeting high school graduates with mailings and a Web site. For example, Burwell plans to launch its program, aimed at alumni ages 27 to 35, within the next month. The high school is developing a Web site touting the town's assets to alumni, and Burwell Economic Development will begin sending mailings this fall to about 200 alumni. 

The organization hopes to attract at least one or two new families back to the area each year by emphasizing Burwell's low cost-of-living and the area's opportunities in start-up businesses and working from home.

We think the model programs operating in Ord and Burwell especially make sense for smaller communities near large urban areas, such as our own community.

A few years ago, a group of committed leaders formed the Dorchester Area Community Association (DACA). We hope some of our younger residents will now form a young residents' group to allow Dorchester's people under 40 years old to network and plan for the community's future.

And we encourage those with DHS connections, perhaps the alumni association, to consider a campaign to recruit Dorchester area natives -- especially those with young families -- back home. 

Others are implementing these ideas. Dorchester would be wise to follow in their footsteps.


  1. Amen Brother/Sister Dweller! Does anyone have nominations for who could start up a young person's group for this town? How about Cory Woerner?? He has impressed me with his thoughtfulness. Or maybe Lindsey and Brent Zoubek? I'll join but I'm not saavy enough to head such a group.

  2. Hello, Did you see the article in the Lincoln Journal Star about the Fairbury blog? I love it! Not only did my relatives own Zwonechek & Aksamit Milling Co. of Wilber & DeWitt, but they also started Korbel Drugstore in Fairbury. By the way, Korbel Drugstore is still operating. Don't worry, I won't name all the Dorchester people I dated!

  3. How about an old peoples group?...........I'd join .......... or maybe there already is a geezers group ........ we meet at West Side every morning for coffee!

  4. nothing agaisnt the school, but the fence they put up is very dangerous, they need to have a teacher or someone from the school help the kids cross when they get out of school, before some child gets hit by a car.

  5. Hi fellow Dorchester Longhornians!
    I stumbled upon this site last week and I have to say I am so impressed with the energy and excitement that is being generated in this community. I won't disclose my name, but I have been away for 20 some years. I have been residing in a much larger city and have to say I am sick of the hustle and bustle. I long for small town life again, and I never would have considered coming back unless I saw this blog site. Now I have to admit this community is an option for me when the time comes to make the move. I would like to see some more businesses open up and succeed. Honestly, I think the new school will bring a renewed sense of community that may draw more people to town and help those businesses in return. Keep up the great work everyone!! Go BIG D!!!!


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