By Kathy Hageman
The Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation (DKEDC) has a lot of irons in the fire, but one of the hottest right now is child care.
“There is a need throughout the county and a big need currently in Abilene that we’re trying to assist with,” DKEDC Executive Director Chuck Scott told county commissioners during their Thursday meeting.
Hopefully, some developments “where we were able to help that process move along” will be announced within the next 30 to 45 days or sooner, Scott said.
Commissioners asked Scott to update them on some of the projects the nonprofit organization has been working on in recent months.
Child care is not a new issue for Abilene parents, but it’s recently become more critical. Earlier this month, officials with the Learn and Grow Depot, Memorial Health System’s child care center, announced that beginning in January it would take only the children of hospital employees. Finding qualified staff has been the big issue, Learn and Grow officials said during a recent parent meeting.
Even before Memorial made its announcement, DKEDC staff and others knew child care slots were lacking, and with Great Plains Manufacturing’s new plant on Van Buren Street hiring new employees, the need will only increase.
“(Great Plains) Land Pride is supposed to ramp up in the latter part of December and well into the first quarter as they start adding their 200 employees,” Scott said. “We need to make sure we’ve got all the appropriate housing and we’ve got child care availability so when they’re out looking for employees we can not only provide a house but provide day care for the children of those workers as well.”
Making sure housing accommodations are available is also a priority, he said.
The Garfield & HIE
DKEDC was active in helping the Garfield LLC project, an apartment complex planned for the old Garfield School, move forward in the tax credit process, Scott said. That process is necessary for developers to obtain a building permit.
“They’re finishing off the final checklist items now,” he explained, noting the plan is to have groundbreaking before the weather gets too cold. “Expect to see activity at Garfield in a 30- to 45-day period.”
DKEDC has also been “quite involved” in helping owners of the Holiday Inn Express on the north side of Abilene formulate their resolution of intent and incentive package, Scott said.
Once appropriate documents are executed, hearings will be held to form the CID (Community Incentive District), obtain IRBs (Industrial Revenue Bonds) and other financing structures, he explained.
The Garfield and Holiday Inn Express are the two big projects DKEDC has been working with, totaling a little more than $13 million and 40 jobs.
Those two projects, in conjunction with others already completed or in process, means DKEDC is closing in on its five-year goals.
“We’ll be very close, if not reaching those by the end of this year, so that will result in 250 new jobs throughout the county and over $50 million of capital investment,” Scott said. “I’m pleased we hit that goal or will be very close to hitting that goal within a two-year period on a five-year campaign.”
90 some projects
DKEDC is working actively on some 90 files. The Garfield and HIE were two Scott began working on his first day as executive director on March 1, 2018.
“So they do take awhile. That’s why I try to let people know they need to have patience on some of these. There are a lot of moving parts when we’ve got to work through how all the financing structures work and to get those moved through all the appropriate governmental entities as well,” Scott said. “Especially when you’re working on a tax credit project like the Garfield.”
Not only Abilene
Positive economic signs are happening all over the county and not just in Abilene, he said.
Chapman has seen a number of projects; some buildings are now occupied and new businesses have opened.
Herington is also seeing some activity and the town’s housing glut is decreasing.
“They’ve got people coming in, buying houses so the availability is coming down,” Scott said. “That’s a good sign that we’ve got interested people living in the county and it’s not just one area. We’re hearing that all around the county.”
Scott announced the DKEDC office in downtown Abilene is moving to a new location in the 200 block of NW 15th Street, next to Security 1st Title. The office should be in its new location by mid-to-late November.
“Our board has approved a signed lease agreement for new office space,” Scott said. “We’re in a position where we need space slightly different than what we have today.”
Once DKEDC moves, the downtown office location at 308 N. Broadway will not be empty. It already has a new tenant.
“That was crucial, to make sure we work to find somebody to take over that place and to not see a vacancy,” Scott said.
Contact Kathy Hageman at firstname.lastname@example.org.