Economic Recovery Plan Infuses $150,000 Into Local Economy

Friday, April 24, 2020

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With the extra incentive of PCDC’s Magic Multiplier gift card program, local residents purchased more than $75,000 in gift certificates to Phelps County businesses in April.

PCDC programs aimed to give area businesses a boost during the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be successful and became a model for other communities across the state.

“PCDC is overwhelmed by the community's positive response to the program, and we see it as emblematic of our culture - we take care of each other,” PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said.

The Phelps County Development Corporation and its program partners (the Phelps County Community Foundation and the Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce) distributed the first wave of Magic Multiplier matching funds at a drive-thru pick-up event on April 15. PCDC wrote checks totaling $52,788 to 63 businesses in Holdrege, Loomis, Bertrand and Atlanta.

In the gift card program launched on April 1, PCDC doubled the value of every gift card purchased at Phelps County businesses to help the business owners. If a customer purchased a $50 gift card, the business owner received $100 ($50 from PCDC and $50 from the customer).

The Phelps County Community Foundation also matched gift card purchases with its funds going to the Phelps County Disaster Relief Fund to help people with basics needs such as food, medical prescriptions, rent and utilities.

The Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce partnered by creating an online gift-card purchasing platform on its website and by encouraging residents to shop local and continue to support area businesses who are hard hit by the pandemic.

“The program was established to act as a bridge from the time when businesses had to curtail their operations due to government-imposed restrictions and the arrival of federal assistance checks,” Tillery said.

Each business owner could receive up to a $1,000 match for each two-week check cycle. The Magic Multiplier incentive was made possible by PCDC redirecting $75,000 of its LB840 funds. The funds were nearly depleted in the first two weeks of the program as Phelps County residents generously supported local businesses from restaurants and salons to coffee shops, clothing stores and massage studios. As of Friday, April 17, the matching funds were exhausted and the program was suspended.

Farm Bureau Financial Services in Holdrege purchased gift cards from area businesses and then donated them to local healthcare workers at six facilities, including Phelps Memorial Health Center, Phelps Medical Group, Family Medical Specialties, ruralMed Management Resources, Christian Homes Care Community and Holdrege Memorial Homes.

“We purchased gift cards from local businesses to show our appreciation for everything they do for our town,” said Phil Hinrichs, owner of Farm Bureau Financial Services in Holdrege, on his company’s Facebook page. “We are proud to be part of this wonderful community.”

Monica Ehlers, owner of E-Klips Salon in downtown Holdrege closed her salon temporarily in early April due to the directed health measure issued by Two Rivers Public Health. Immediately, customers started purchasing gift certificates.

“The gift certificate sales exceeded my expectations because of PCDC’s generous program,” Ehlers said.

She said the program encouraged local residents to buy gift certificates for services they had already budgeted into their spending and helped them feel like they were doing something to help in this crisis. It also provided another avenue to encourage shopping local.

The second part of PCDC’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan included offering $1,000 digital development grants. In the first 10 days, PCDC approved three grants and several more were pending. Many business owners used the funds to join GROW Nebraska and/or the Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Both organizations provide workshops and online platforms that can expand their ability to reach new customers," Tillery said.

The grants can also be used to create a website or online store, advertise an online store or purchase point-of-sale software.

As soon as PCDC’s economic recovery plan was announced, the response was immediately positive from local residents and statewide.

Tillery said at least seven Nebraska communities (including Auburn, York, Seward, Buffalo County, Lexington, Chadron and McCook) had contacted PCDC to learn more about this program.

“Holdrege has an advantage over most other communities: voters appointed PCDC as the administrator of the LB840 funds that fuel the programs, which enables PCDC to move quickly to address challenges,” Tillery said. “Governmental entities typically take much longer to process information and then react.”

Tillery said these programs are the result of great community partnerships, and he also wanted to call attention to other local organizations and businesses that are stepping up to help the community during the pandemic, especially KUVR, Phelps Memorial Health Center and the Phelps Community Pantry.

KUVR has expanded local coverage with daily COVID-19 special reports featuring interviews of leaders of various local organizations, including local doctors and Phelps Memorial Health Center staff, Holdrege Chamber leaders and PCDC staff.

“They started their own Love Local campaign and have been supportive of PCDC, the Chamber and PCCF,” Tillery said.

All recordings of KUVR interviews can be found on the station’s Facebook page (KUVR 1380 AM/96.9 FM).

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