Workforce Development, Housing and Ag Industrial Growth Prioritized in 2023

Workforce Development, Housing and Ag Industrial Growth Prioritized in 2023 Main Photo

13 Mar 2023

Brick by brick, the Phelps County economy continues to grow.

Increased retail sales, a growing labor force and millions of dollars in construction projects bolstered the local economy in 2022. PCDC investors learned about that growth and the organization’s priorities for 2023 at the annual meeting Tuesday, February 28, at JB’s Sports Bar & Grill in downtown Holdrege.

“The economy in Phelps County and Holdrege is strong,” PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said. “Its foundation is solid, and it’s easy to see growth and new activity throughout the county.”

Tillery said that in 2022, PCDC supported projects in every Phelps County community, and there are more in the pipeline for 2023.

“Nonetheless, we face some real challenges,” Tillery said. “Small rural communities like ours must be scrappy and determined, every single day.”

PCDC Board President Phil Hinrichs shared highlights of PCDC’s work in 2022 as housing and workforce development continued to be top priorities.

More than 2,200 employees commute in to work in Holdrege each day, Hinrichs said.

“That’s a big opportunity for us,” he said. “Each new employee who chooses to live in Phelps County brings a family with a spouse and kids who can enter the workforce.”

PCDC has taken the lead on housing by developing the new Crew Subdivision, which is nearly complete. The organization is now partnering with the City of Holdrege on a new housing development that could include 26 new living units.

Hinrichs shared some key financial successes in Phelps County in 2022:

  • Retail sales grew by 3.4 percent
  • More than $26 million in construction projects were started
  • The labor force grew to 4,969.
  • The unemployment rate in Phelps County is 1.9 percent

“PCDC’s financial performance matches the strong market performance,” Hinrichs said. “We overperformed on the revenue side and are right on budget for expenses.”

Any excess revenues will support future projects, such as Iron Horse Business & Industry Park infrastructure and the new housing subdivision.

Others have started to notice the momentum in Phelps County, Hinrichs said. Holdrege was selected as a Community of the Year by the Nebraska Diplomats in 2022. Private companies are paying attention, too, as the number of companies seeking information about expanding or relocating to Phelps County continues to grow.

“PCDC attracts attention from businesses that want to be a part of a winning team,” Hinrichs said.

In official business at the meeting, five directors were re-elected to another 4-year term. Those directors are Nate DeWald, Jared Engelbert, Grant Hinze, Reed McClymont and Chris McQuillan.

Long-time PCDC Board Member Tim Rehm retired from the board, and Allison Fritsche of Holdrege was elected to her first term in his place.

“Allison brings infectious energy and a valuable technology perspective to the board,” Hinrichs said.

She is a Sales Engineer/Public Relations Specialist at Glenwood Technology.

Hinrichs then passed the president’s gavel to new PCDC Board President Shane Westcott.

“During the time I’ve been on the PCDC board, I’ve seen tremendous progress in Phelps County,” Westcott said. “Yet complacency isn’t an option. We need to take advantage of our momentum to ensure that future generations can enjoy the things that make this place special, just like our ancestors have done.”

Westcott said his priorities as president will be similar to years past with a focus on housing and the workforce.

“In addition, PCDC will increase its focus on making our area the premiere location for ag-industrial growth,” Westcott said. “Food processing, commodity processing … the things that build value from our natural resources and the expertise of our farm community.”

Westcott said PCDC won’t chase projects that don’t fit the community or that are trendy or won’t last.

“Our focus is on the long term and projects that add real value to our way of life,” he said. “We will also continue to support our existing businesses and their plans for growth. And, we will be responsive to their workforce needs.”