conomic development and housing issues will be top priorities for Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth as he begins the second year of his four-year term in 2016.
Wirth visited with the Daily Sun about his aspirations for the new year, and reflected on his first year in office as the city’s mayor.
As it has been in the past, Wirth said drawing new business to Beatrice remains a top priority.
“Economic development has to be a priority for our whole area, not just Beatrice but all of Gage County,” Wirth said. “My feeling is that we have to step it up a notch and we have to be as aggressive as ever in trying to attract new business to our community and our county.”
Wirth commended NGage, the area’s economic development group, for its work in the area, but stressed no single group can make or break an area’s economic development prospects. It’s rather the cumulative efforts of multiple parties.
“I think what brings that bar up, is what I see as a real strong cooperative effort among all of those decision makers in the community,” Wirth said. “I think that is of utmost importance in addition to the willingness of the general public to volunteer for different causes. These are people who work hard every day. They’re doing it because they have a passion for whatever area they want to work in.”
Wirth said the city will continue to use LB840 funds, which are earmarked for economic development purposes, to enhance the area.
The funds have previously been used to help startups get off the ground as well as for the sale of existing businesses, and have proved successful for the city in most instances.
Currently, Wirth estimated Beatrice is a 7.5 to 8 on a 1-10 scale of the community’s overall quality, though he added, “We’ll get to 10 someday.”
Reflecting on his first year as mayor, Wirth said the toughest lesson to learn was that government moves slow. In some instances, very slow.
“I’m not a very patient person,” Wirth said with a chuckle. “I think that became evident from time to time. Government moves pretty slow. If there was any wish that I had, it would be that we pick the pace up. However, it’s all for a reason and if you’re going to have full disclosure, and that’s what we strive to do all the time, the process is going to move slow.”
Additionally, Wirth said housing issues are a key priority to help the area flourish.
“In my opinion, we have to become a developer-friendly community,” Wirth said. “If we’re going to concentrate our efforts in economic development, bring new businesses here and are concentrating on growth and expansion of existing businesses, we need to try and attract those industry workers here. We need to show them that we have homes for them, homes that they’re wanting to buy.”
A comprehensive housing study is being conducted by the NGage economic development group with Hanna:Keelan Associates, a Nebraska-based community planning and research consulting firm, alongside a countywide housing steering committee comprised of local community and county officials and housing stakeholders.
The Nebraska Investment Finance Authority provided 50 percent of the funding for the study.
This articles is from the Beatrice Daily Sun, written by Scoot Koperski.