NGage Economic Development Group Promotes Southeast Nebraska | Local News
Scott Koperski Daily Sun News Editor
From bringing new businesses to Gage County to helping make Sunland more attractive to potential residents and businesses, the NGage Economic Development Group is here to improve the area.
Trevor Lee has been the executive director of NGage for about two years. During this period, he said securing land for future development has been a standout achievement.
“We’re running out of space in the industrial park, so to be able to find 340 acres in less than two years is a big win for the organization,” he said. “The industrial park started in the 1980s, and it was 10-15% full. Initially, it was a 200-acre industrial park. We have about 48 acres left over there. That’s 48 acres that we would consider ready for development, so it has critical infrastructure in place or nearby for roads, water, sewer, power, fiber.
NGage has secured 80 acres adjacent to the industrial park, in addition to two parcels of land northwest of Beatrice near Koch Nitrogen on West Hickory Road.
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The 80 acres that NGage has secured in the industrial park with an option to purchase in 2021 are the last 80 acres that can be developed in the current industrial park, Lee said.
The Hickory site was secured in 2020.
“We have rail access, so it would be interesting to see what the feasibility is of developing a rail fleet in this area, or at least sites that can be served by rail,” Lee said. “It positions us well to attract some businesses that need this infrastructure that doesn’t exist in many places on this side of the state.
“I think these sites are currently more attractive to existing businesses that need to expand. We’ve had a lot more growth than recruitment over the last few years. With these sites it’s not necessarily so you can go hiring a big company that needs 100 employees is more opportunity capital for the project that could be in 10 years.
NGage is an economic development joint venture between the Town of Beatrice and Gage County where the two organizations have agreed to contribute up to $150,000 annually to fund the economic development group.
NGage board chair Andrea Schafer said the structure has worked well for 10 years.
“It’s been fantastic,” she said. “I was part of this original group handpicked to start a new organization by Mayor Dennis Schuster and (county council member) Matt Bauman, and they thought carefully about what this contract would look like and how that partnership would work, and they’ve really done a good job of working on how we can be funded, what that board looks like going forward, and I think it’s served us very well.
Lee said NGage also recently worked on its 2021 strategic plan, which hadn’t been updated in a few years.
“The timing was really good because COVID was kind of in the rearview mirror at that time,” he said. “It allowed the board to step back and analyze the work we do. Nothing really changed, but we sort of rearranged the priorities. Day to day, I feel like we spend more time on quality of life, attraction and retention. Then in the background we still do recruitment with activities such as securing the land, environmental studies, not really for today, but for tomorrow.
Lee said child care has become an area to focus on, and NGage participates in the Communities for Kids program.
“This is a three-year program with the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation that allows us as a community and region to take stock of child care availability, access to resources for early childhood welfare, development and all those things that we think are directly related to quality of life,” Lee said. “Anything we can do as an organization to advocate for projects or initiatives that make Gage County a more attractive place to stay or return fall into this category.”
While Lee said he enjoyed his time in Gage County, he announced his resignation earlier this month with plans to move to central Nebraska.
“This would be my third job as Director of Economic Development, and by far the best,” he said of NGage. “Just like the work environment and relations with the city and the department. We have a supportive board, which is rare. We have a terrific board that is very engaged and they are as active or as active as needed, which is rare. It’s been really nice and the companies we work with have been fantastic and supportive of us and the organization. »
Lee has accepted the position of chairman of the Buffalo County Economic Development Council in Kearney and his last day at NGage will be March 31.
Lee was hired by NGage in February 2020 after serving as Valley County Economic Development Manager in Ord for seven years prior.
The NGage executive committee has plans in place to search for Lee’s replacement. Lee will provide research support while some day-to-day duties may be contacted to help with the transition due to staffing shortages.