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Grant to Support Northwest Nebraska Rural Communities
Nebraska Ag Connection - 09/22/2020

A $125,000 grant from USDA Rural Development will promote rural community prosperity in three counties in northwest Nebraska. The grant, which will be matched in-kind by University of Nebraska Extension staff time, will support technical assistance to communities in Sioux, Dawes and Sheridan Counties.

The assistance will be provided by a coalition of agencies, including the University of Nebraska and the Heartland Center for Leadership Development. Partners in the region include the Northwest Nebraska Development Corporation and Discover Northwest Nebraska.

One of the priorities will be regional tourism development, noted Kerri Rempp, executive director of Discover Northwest Nebraska. "We are thrilled about this project," said Rempp, "especially given the setbacks to tourism traffic that have resulted from the pandemic."

"The importance of the visitor industry to Dawes County's economy cannot be overlooked, and Chadron and Crawford are the beneficiaries of everything we do to invite, retain and get repeat visits for the leisure traveler. It is the second largest industry in northwest Nebraska behind agriculture", said NNDC Director Deb Cottier."We are pleased to be asked to participate in the NW Nebraska Prosperity Project", she said.

"This is really exciting for our region and especially our rural communities," said Jenny Nixon, who describes herself as "passionate about the vitality of rural communities in Nebraska." Nixon is a Nebraska Extension Educator from Crawford and a member of the Rural Prosperity Nebraska team.

The project will be one of the first undertaken by the University of Nebraska under the banner of Rural Prosperity Nebraska, a new NU initiative that combines efforts of Nebraska Extension's Community Vitality Initiative and NU's Rural Futures Institute. Rural community prosperity has been cited by NU President Ted Carter as a key element of his strategic plan for the university. "When rural Nebraska is successful, the entire state is successful," President Carter said in a statement released after his recent investiture as the university system's chief executive.

The project will focus not only on tourism, but also on attracting and retaining residents, improving community and regional amenities, business growth and leadership development. It will begin officially on October 1 and is expected to continue for up to three years.

The USDA grant was awarded to the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, a Lincoln-based nonprofit, which will facilitate grant-supported activities in cooperation with Nebraska Extension and regional partners.

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