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City goes for grants, loan for shovel-ready site

Funds would be invested in infrastructure

If the city builds it, they will come.

That’s how Dawson Area Development director Jen Wolf describes how she thinks developing an industrial tract in southeast Gothenburg will bring more industry to town.

The approximate 350 acres of pasture was once considered for development by an ethanol production company that decided not to build on the site.

On Feb. 21, the Gothenburg City Council approved application for a $300,000 rural economic development grant that Wolf said is likely to be awarded.

If awarded, the grant will flow through the city as a loan to the Gothenburg Improvement Company, which will use the money to develop the industrial tract by extending streets, water and sewer to the site in hopes of attracting new jobs and investment.

Council members also approved $60,000 in matching funds as a loan to GIC to develop the industrial tract.

The GIC will pay back the loan, at 0% interest for 10 years, into a revolving loan fund.

In related business, the council established a Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) Revolving Loan Fund plan.

To receive money from the City of Gothenburg Loan Fund, applicants would have to propose projects that meet certain criteria and significantly benefit the Gothenburg area.

The plan also specifies such things as the appointment of a loan fund committee that would review applications.

City attorney Mike Bacon, speaking as president of the Gothenburg Improvement Company, said the industrial site has high priority with Nebraska Department of Economic Development officials.

“Few other sites in the state have access to Union Pacific,” Bacon said, referring to railroad tracks north of the site. “And they (Union Pacific) are pushing to develop it.”

Bacon said the GIC has one business targeted for the site with another the economic development company is considering.

“I think it’s a good utilization of funds and should be a high priority to get jobs,” he said.

At the meeting, council members also learned that GIC has applied for a $500,000 grant, through a state site and building development fund, that Wolf said members are confident they’ll receive.

Coupled with the first grant, she said the $860,000 would help pay for the estimated $1.3 million cost for infrastructure.

“If we build it, they will come,” Wolf said. “I think we’ll be able to have tenants on the site in a very short time.”

Bacon said tax-increment financing and city sales tax funds could close the financing gap for infrastructure, without burdening taxpayers.

Bacon noted that economic development recruitment used to take about three years.

“And now they want a shovel-ready site,” Bacon said.

In other business, the council:

passed, on final reading, a law that changes some of the speed limits in town and on state highways. The law also consolidates speed zones into one location in the code book. The ordinance is published in The Times this week on page A6.

renewed liquor licenses at businesses around town (see box).

accepted a sole bid from EMC Insurance Companies, offered through First State Insurance of Gothenburg, for property and casualty insurance for $90,856, compared to $111,129 last year. City officials said the decrease is because of lower worker’s compensation claims.

Officials said the company returns dividends to the city which totalled $16,040 in 2011 and $8,565 in 2010.

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