Notes from

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Notes from ...

    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

Nebraska’s Rural Jobs Forum was held Friday, January 8 from 10 a.m. to noon CST via

    statewide video conference to eight sites in Nebraska: Scottsbluff, North Platte, McCook,

    Kearney, Ainsworth, Norfolk, Omaha and Lincoln.

There were 32 co-conveners: Center for Rural Affairs; Central Community College; Federal

    Reserve Bank of Kansas City - Omaha Branch; Mid-Plains Community College; Nebraska

    Bankers Association; Nebraska Business Development Center; Nebraska Chamber of Commerce

    and Industry; Nebraska Department of Banking; Nebraska Department of Economic

    Development; Nebraska Department of Labor; Nebraska Department of Revenue; Nebraska

    Enterprise Fund; Nebraska Ethanol Board; Nebraska Farm Bureau; Nebraska Farmers Union

    Nebraska Independent Community Bankers; Nebraska Investment Finance Authority; Nebraska

    League of Municipalities; Nebraska Resource Conservation and Development Districts;

    Nebraska Rural Development Commission; Nebraska Rural Enterprise Assistance Program;

    Nebraska Society of CPAs; Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce; Northeast Community

    College; Partnership for Rural Nebraska; U.S. Small Business Administration Nebraska;

    University of Nebraska Rural Initiative; USDA Farm Services Agency Nebraska; USDA Natural

    Resources Conservation Service Nebraska; USDA Forest Service, Nebraska National Forests

    and Grasslands; and Western Nebraska Community College.

The welcome was given by Rural Development State Director Maxine Moul with opening video

    remarks by USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and by U.S. Senator Ben Nelson. There

    was 1 hour and 45 minutes available for comments from participants across the state. In addition, participants were given comment cards to provide additional input.

    Following is a synopsis of the remarks during the Forum. A video tape of the entire two hours was made by Nebraska Educational Television, the host for the video conference.

Questions 1 & 2: What parts of your local economy are working or thriving?

    What businesses and sectors are expanding and hiring? What parts of your local

    economy are not working or thriving? What businesses and sectors have been

    hit the hardest? What are people struggling with the most?

Mike Jacobson, Chairman for Nebraska Bankers Association, North Platte;

    ? Railroad has slowed down but continued use of coal and transportation through

    North Platte has been an added plus to keep this industry going

    ? Grain has been strong; however, cattle is slower but showing some recovery

    ? Export demand due to world economy and declining world economy has had an



    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


Rex Nelson, McCook Economic Development;

    ? McCook mirrors North Platte with ag economy impacted similarly

    ? Manufacturing has cut back some but stable and showing some increase with a

    fairly even keel

Janelle Anderson Ehrke, CEO for GROW Nebraska, Holbrook;

    ? Buy local has increased, due to the buy local movement but not able to assist all

    on ecommerce and a little overwhelmed

    ? Huge increase in membership and offering local assistance with 19% increase in

    stores and 113% online purchases

Larry Marik, Chairman Elect for Nebraska Bankers Association, Columbus;

    ? What is working: Manufacturing i.e., Becton Dickinson

    ? Kantana wind tower construction is beginning to move again. Important to get the

    wind sector moving again as this is an important employer to Columbus

    ? Columbus has weathered the downturn decently in the manufacturing sector

Jeannie Riegle, Madison Community Volunteer Organization, Madison

    ? Food industry in Madison is expanding, particularly the retail food sector

    ? Packing plant is stable at this time

Richard Baier, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Lincoln;

    ? Leveling out at 40 hours

    ? Focus on data centers and IT

    ? Energy on hold

    ? Housing availability is in question

Jeff Reynolds, Center for Rural Affairs, Rural Enterprise Assistance Project Program

    Director, Plymouth;

    ? Micro lending is way up

    ? Banks have pulled back credit due to the economy; REAP is attempting to help

    the situation

    ? Displaced workers are starting businesses

Glennis McClure, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Oakland;

    ? Lending up 29% for small businesses

Terri Dageford, Director for Business & Industry for Gage County Economic

    Development, Beatrice;

    ? Businesses need availability to line-of-credit, operating loans, etc. effect is to

    suppliers, etc.

Renee Bauer, Workforce Development Coordinator for Rural Comprehensive Care

    Network, Norfolk;

    ? All hospitals and clinics are hiring


    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


Joe Ferguson, Northeast Community College, Norfolk

    ? New nursing college will play vital role in retaining people in northeast Nebraska

    ? Developing a nursing college up to PhDs with the University, in an effort to keep

    education local

    ? Establish sites for continuing education, to provide training locally

    ? Keep students in the region and provide employment to retain the graduate

Jeanne Riegle, Madison Community Volunteer Organization, Madison

    ? Food industry is strong

    ? Building internships through colleges with businesses, working to retain

Doug Pauley, Central Community College, Columbus

    ? Adding and focusing on (technical field) programs such as health care,

    manufacturing, industrial automation and welding

    ? Columbus is doing well

Tom Gorman, Mid Plains Community College, North Platte;

    ? Distance learning

    ? Center for entrepreneurship,

    ? Community college

Sandy Scofield, University of Nebraska Rural Initiative, Lincoln;

    ? Nebraska has low unemployment but high underemployment, people are working

    2 & 3 jobs

    ? Health care and education will be the jobs of the future

Judy Amoo, Dean of Business and Industry Training, Western Nebraska Community

    College, Scottsbluff;

    ? WNCC seeing record enrollment in nursing, criminal justice and wind power and

    electrical lineman school. Seeing decrease in business sponsored classes for

    employees due to the economy

    ? WNCC actively tries to reach out to area high schools and tailor classes to meet

    needs of the community

Pat Compton, Nebraska Department of Economic Development Housing Development

    Specialist, Kearney;

    ? Low income population has been hit hard because of the strains as hours are cut;

    needs domino into service providers


    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


Question 3 - From what you have seen, or seen reported about the President’s rdJobs Forum on December 3 and the administration’s approach to job creation

    overall, what seems relevant to your community?

Randy Alexander, Nebraska Business Development Center, Omaha;

    ? NBDC business is up from 425 clients in 2008 to 1,024 in 2009 which is a direct

    result of stimulus and recovery funds

    ? Seen a jump in requested assistance to work as a liaison with town, city, state

    and federal government agencies for business (s)wishing to work with one of the

    government entities

    ? 3 times the number of workshops with 40,000 business attendees

John Gross, Gross Seed Company, Ainsworth;

    ? Loss of feedlot has had a large impact to community

    ? Closing of the feedlot cost one business to lose 10% of his gross revenue; loss of

    30-40 full time direct employees

    Transportation to market of commodities is expensive (30-35 cents/bushel)

    ? Lack of local markets for the high yielded crops

Larry Marik, Chairman Elect for Nebraska Bankers Association, Columbus

    ? Shovel ready is great, roadblock is how project goes through system, criteria of

    job creation is too burdensome and clumsy, process needs to be easy

    ? Need to change attitudes to a “we can” in rural communities

Mike Jacobson, Chairman for Nebraska Bankers Association, North Platte;

    ? Many problems come back to lack of demand for our products such as higher

    cuts of beef

    ? Efforts to expand trade and alleviate trade barriers among our trading partners

    and world markets will create better demand

Jim Keeler, NMPP, Lincoln;

    ? There is a lack of volunteerism, the same people are at every meeting table,

    multiple jobs by the same person prevents other commitments

Kathie Starkweather, Director for Rural Opportunities and Stewardship, Center for Rural

    Affairs, Lincoln;

    ? Small business creation is job creation, we need to look at new opportunities

    i.e., eco-tourism, etc.

Kurt Elder, GIS Analysis, City of Lincoln, Urban Development Department, Lincoln

    ? Instead of creating new jobs in rural areas, transfer federal and State jobs to

    rural communities by means of technology


    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


Richard Baier, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Lincoln;

    ? DED has done this with the establishment of call centers in various locations

    across the state

Jeff Reynolds, Center for Rural Affairs, Rural Enterprise Assistance Project Program

    Director, Plymouth;

    ? Micro is good news, the increase from $35,000 to $50,000 is a good increase

    for small businesses,

    ? Line-of-credit is needed

Betty Sayers, Business Beyond the, Holdrege;

    ? They interview small businesses and ask what would it take for you to grow; new

    equipment not tied to job creation, growth requires skill, colleges need to be

    integrated and there is a lack of information regarding the availability of


Rod Horton, Executive Director for Kimball/Banner County Chamber of Commerce,


    ? It seems that all dollars are going to roads not to businesses in growth or


    ? Need more effort to get funds to individual businesses

    ? Feels like money gets filtered down from large communities to smaller ones and

    not much left once it gets to the smaller communities. Need allocations to all

    communities including smaller ones

    ? Loss of hope with no light at end of tunnel

Jerry Terwillinger, REAP, Scottsbluff;

    ? REAP program in western Nebraska is probably the only avenue available to

    small businesses such as micro businesses

    ? Concerned as the Governor has cut their budget by $1 million and Nebraska

    Dept of Economic Dev. is also cutting funds

Dr. Beverly Merrick, professor at University of Nebraska-Kearney, Kearney

    ? We lose our heritage when we tear down buildings; we need to find a way to

    save the buildings and incorporate technology

Question 4; What are the opportunities for growth in your community? What

    businesses and sectors seem poised to rebound? What do you see as the “jobs

    of the future”?

Deb Cottier, Nebraska Northwest Development Corporation, Chadron;

    ? Need resources to save, not necessarily create, businesses, working capital,

    line-of-credit resources


    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


Frank Johansson, Scottsbluff

    ? Panhandle has experience severe hail storms and severe weather

    ? Number of farmers and ranchers will be short on cash due to the extreme

    weather and thus small businesses will suffer as well due to lack of spending

    ? Need to look at adequate resources and funds for those suffering these hard


    ? Ag producers will be looking at ways to supplement income until things get better

Ingrid Battershell, Nebraska Business Development Center, Scottsbluff

    ? ARC loans maximum $35,000 interest free for 18 months for economic hardship,

    are available through SBA

    ? Loans tailored for businesses experiencing losses due to economy

Jason Tuller, Director for Nebraska Business Development Center, North Platte;

    ? Health care bill costs projections; impact to small businesses is going to hinder

    job creation

    ? How do you project the costs for health care?

    ? Sometimes a new business wants to pay minimum, wage but new health care bill

    will require employers to provide health insurance

Weldon Sleight, Dean of Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, Curtis;

    ? Need financing programs for business transitions to help young individuals stay

    or return to their community

    ? FSA offers low interest loans to support young farmers and ranchers; need

    something similar for main street business owners

Dawn Turner, Colorado Biolabs, Inc., Cozad;

    ? Their/her business is poised for expansion however there is a problem with

    waste disposal if double production, and need $1 million in capital, the demand is

    there and they can increase employment if their two problems can be addressed,

    waste disposal and capital

    ? Loans that are available are too small

Pat Compton, Nebraska Department of Economic Development Housing Development

    Specialist, Kearney;

    ? Health care cost projections for small businesses is a problem

John Gross, Gross Seed Co., Ainsworth;

    ? Hard to invest in technology if the money is tied to adding employees, the health

    care threshold of 5 employees is too low, reporting obstacles require employees,

    there is a need for compensation to meet requirements

Jake (Norfolk);

    ? Lack of dollars to re-invest in existing businesses or to bring in new won’t be from

    the government or from banks it will be from the community


    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


Dave Simonsen, Elkhorn Valley Economic Development Council, Norfolk;

    ? Money is an issue, budgets should not be cut; they should be increased

    ? Need to train people, keep their talents in the community

    ? How do we provide incentives when there are no dollars, LB840 is possible

    avenue (local tax initiative)

Tonyi Franklin, Regional Coordinator for University of Nebraska Lincoln/NE EDGE

    program/Center for Applied Rural Initiatives (CARI) and also a small technical business

    owner, Lincoln;

    ? Lack of broadband technology prevents the hiring of qualified employees

    ? Need to be able to give our youth the tools to compete globally

Carl Elmhaeuser, Executive Director for West Central Nebraska Development District,


    ? Broadband investment is being made but needs to expand to rural communities,


    ? Need to get to the elementary education and work with students, these are the

    students that are learning via technology

    ? Where are our jobs in an Ag economy?

Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board, Lincoln;

    ? Bio fuels and ethanol will be future jobs, infrastructure, and large opportunity for


    ? 23 sites to expand ethanol production in Nebraska

    ? Increased production requirements for 2010, 2011, 2012

    ? Work with EPA to encourage ethanol consumption and provide more tax


Peter Kotsiopulos, Vice President for University Affairs, University of Nebraska-Lincoln;

    ? Services and resources how well are we plugged into our communities

    ? Equity in an idea

    ? Personal investment

    ? Gallup survey of 3,000 inputs said 52% of Nebraska businesses plan to turn over

    in the next 5 years and 25% of those plan to turn the key, what are our plans?

    ? How do we bring suppliers closer and transfer businesses to the next generation?

Sandy Scofield, University of Nebraska Rural Initiative, Lincoln;

    ? Focus group with university students from rural communities regarding their

    return to rural communities highlighted issues with broadband and the need for

    2 jobs for a couple not one job for an individual, and minimum wage won’t work

    ? Look at the over all quality of broadband

    ? Look at the number of handheld devices in use

    ? Government can’t fix everything, we need to figure out what we can do


    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


Tim Mittan, Director of Entrepreneurship Center, Southeast Community College, Lincoln;

    ? Nebraska has done well with entrepreneurship education; Southeast Community

    College (SCC) worked with 600 clients last year

    ? Question why are small businesses overlooked

    ? Lack of health care is an issue

    ? Students want to go home but don’t believe they are wanted

    ? Resources are needed, dollars and support. Find innovative ways to provide

    secondary level of funding.

Randy Cantrell, University of Nebraska Center for Applied Rural Innovation (Health

    Initiatives), Lincoln;

    ? Lack of health care is an impediment to small business start up

    ? 70% of focus group had a favorable attitude to starting a business but had fears

    of no available funds and if there is a need for the business

Question 5 What are the obstacles to job creation in your community? What

    could make local businesses more likely to start hiring?

Daniel McCarville, student at University of Nebraska- Omaha, worked for McCook

    Economic Development, Omaha;

    ? Education needed in the area of youth and young engagement

    ? Citizens buy into communities and want youth to return to small towns

    ? Youth will not be able to help in community if they don’t feel welcome or have a

    sense of being a part of the community

    ? There must be jobs for youth in order for them to come back to hometown

Cliff Mosteller, Nebraska Business Development Center, Omaha;

    ? Obstacles are unemployment rate and job substitution. Most who are coming in

    have lost their job and are creating a job for themselves, not hiring new people

    ? Absence of micro lending or gap financing. Some Lenders are able to work to

    make undoable deals doable by taking second level of security to bank

    ? Give businesses access to smaller amount of gap financing needed to access

    the finance needed to keep their business going or to increase their number of

    employees or even diversify their business

Jay Knobbe, Norfolk Area Recruiters, Norfolk;

    ? Obstacle to job creation is lack of money to reinvest

    ? Have entrepreneurs within the communities partner together to bring in capital

Dave Simonsen, Elkhorn Valley Economic Development Council;

    ? There is not one solution and money is huge issue


    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


    ? In order to bring in more people, jobs and to offer training, more money is needed

    and his budget is not sufficient

    ? Norfolk is unique and Norfolk is looking to put LB840 back on the ballot

Doug Pauley, Central Community College, Columbus;

    ? Obstacle is not enough kids going into the skilled trade area

    ? We have employers in manufacturing and ethanol that could grow if they had

    skilled people

    ? Need to work with high schools to get more students to stay

John Gross, Gross Seed Co., Ainsworth;

    ? Hard to constantly invest in technology to keep businesses up to date with all

    State/Federal grant requirements

    ? Reporting requirements for ARRA funds are overwhelming no funds to hire

    additional employees

Deb Cottier, Nebraska Northwest Development Corporation, Chadron;

    ? Available resources sometime means saving a business and not necessarily

    always creating a new business

    ? Many small businesses are having a hard time just paying bills such as the heat

    bill and need resources to help keep their businesses running until times get


Question 6 - What are the obstacles to small business credit in your community?

    What could be done to make access to working capital more available, to help

    preserve current jobs and expand the number of new jobs?

Vern Powers, Mayor of Hastings, bank owner, business owner, Hastings;

    ? Many businesses are going to go away once owners retire, die or decide to leave;

    need to look for investor to buy these companies that end up selling and going

    away to outside investors.

Sharon Hueftle, South Central Economic Development District, Holdrege

    ? Lack of technical assistance

    ? Lack of confidence and ability to invest in themselves

    ? Promote an environment of continual support and education for our new

    business owners; help them to save themselves before it becomes too late for

    anyone to help them

Question 7 - What other issues and ideas should the President consider?

No Comments specifically to this question


    Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit

    Summary Report


Question 8 - Are there specific changes to USDA programs and regulations that

    could positively impact the development of businesses in Rural America or

    strengthen current businesses? What innovative ideas should USDA consider to

    increase economic opportunity in rural areas?

Jeanne Riegle, Madison Community Volunteer Organization, Madison;

    ? Noted importance of public perception.

    ? Money needed to be invested in the media to focus on putting out accurate and

    positive information on industries

David Simonsen, Elkhorn Valley Economic Development Corporation, Norfolk;

    ? Rural Development needs to fund research and development through universities

    to existing businesses

    ? Ideas need to be funded to be brought in to business application

    ? Funded ideas need to be required to set up in Nebraska especially rural

    communities much like the nursing RHOP. New technologies/businesses will

    create good paying jobs that then trickle down to all levels of the economy

Mary Gambill, Facilitator, Area Specialist-USDA Rural Development, Ainsworth;

    ? Simplify or eliminate the paperwork; be more dependent through utilization of

    web-based systems

    ? Allow Business and Industry program to include financing lines of credit

    ? Initiatives for “Beginning Businesses” such as the FSA’s Beginning Farmer

    program this will also stimulate local lending partnership

    ? Need initiative for assistance in reviving main street businesses that have closed

    ? Need funding for the USDA Direct Business and Industry Loan program

John Gross, Gross Seed Co., Ainsworth;

    ? Lack of specialized employees to work on broadband equipment

    ? Simplify federal paperwork; stimulus funds have been beneficial however

    requires an excessive amount of paperwork and reporting

    ? Stimulus funds have a higher level of commitments to other federal programs,

    i.e. minority business ownership & environmental regulations

Bob Broweleit, Sandhills RC&D, Mullen;

    ? More investment credits needed for small businesses

Joel Klammer, North Central RC&D, Bassett;

    ? Reform the Farm Bill to assist small farmers; assistance is driven for large



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