Published On: Wed, Mar 12th, 2008

Community leaders invade Lincoln

By Barb Burbach
Cedar County News
LINCOLN —  A group of Hartington citizens with economic development on their minds spent much of last Friday visiting with executive and legislative officials at the Capitol, seeking opportunities to recruit businesses to invest in the Hartington area and bring jobs.
Among this civic-minded group were Mayor Bill Yates, Carla Becker, Hartington’s Economic Development Coordinator, her husband, Mike, Chris Miller, Economic Development Corporation president, and Dennis Sturek, member of the Economic Development Corporation Board.

Miller explained how economic development fit into their day at the Capitol.
“The purpose of our trip was to see how things work on the state level; to explore any opportunities for economic development and to establish connections with the decisionmakers; to let them know we’re here, so if a business contacts them about locating in Nebraska, they’ll think of us,” said Miller.
Becker, who scheduled their meetings that day explained the purpose for the day at the Capitol:  “These yearly visits are a great opportunity to visit with the governor, our senator, and department heads in an effort to inform them of the improvements that are taking place, so they know that Hartington is a progressive community and that we want to take an active role in the state’s economy and make a difference in our rural area,” said Becker.
“These yearly visits also give us an opportunity to learn more about proposed laws, grants and programs that can help rural communities.  “These visits are a great time to visit with various department heads and their staff to ascertain what programs might be viable options for Hartington,” she said.
The group’s first stop was a seminar room where they were served juice, coffee and rolls and met by Dist. No. 40 Sen. Cap Dierks.
Dierks began by talking about the future of the State Fair Park, an issue that has plagued the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee for over one year.
“It started by a proposal by a group called 2015 Vision to build another Qwest Center in Lincoln,” said Dierks.
“An inability to raise the money required killed the idea,” Dierks said.
The debate continues over whether to repair the current State Fair Park or sell it to the university for use as a research and technology center and moving the fair to a new location which would require the construction or remodeling of facilities, Dierks said.
“Both options will cost tens of millions of dollars,” he said.
Becker thanked Dierks and presented him with some memorabilia from Hartington:  a certificate of the Brothers of the Brush for those with mustaches and/or beards as part of Hartington’s quasi-centennial or 125th birthday May 23-26.  A pin was also included.  The pin must be worn during the celebration to prevent that “brother” from being put in jail.  Men without facial hair must purchase a Smoothies permit, Dierks was also presented with an official invitation to the quasi-centennial which will include a barbecue with a contest for the best barbecued steak, steak dinner and parade. Dierks also received a coffee mug decorated with an etching of the design from the Nebraska quarter, done by Angie Peitz of Hartington, who also placed that etching on a window at the Governor’s Mansion near the First Lady’s office on the back side of the mansion.  The mug was filled with candy.
Dierks was asked to ride along in the parade.
Dierks thanked the group for the gifts and for traveling over snow-covered roads to meet with him and other state officials.
The next stop for the Hartington contingent was the office of Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy.
“What brings you to the home of the state’s government?” Sheehy asked.
“Our main objective is to find a business, perhaps another cheese plant to move in where the Neu Chese plant operated, bringing new jobs with it,” said Miller.
“We’re interested in exploring any opportunities for economic development and to spread news about Hartington’s quasi-centennial in May,” said Becker.
Sheehy described the types of activities that fill his days.
“I spend 60 to 70 percent of my time on homeland security issues,” said Sheehy. “I look for the need for improvement in the preparation system for disasters such as tornado, fire or epidemic.”
“I spend much time presiding over the Legislature,” Sheehy said.  “It’s usually not a very productive role.  “The governor prefers that I be among the people, so I spend much time traveling throughout the state speaking at events,” he said.
Sheehy complimented the use of computers in distance learning by Dan Hoesing, superintendent at Wynot, Coleridge, Laurel and Newcastle public schools:  “I hope we can get more superintendents to do what your superintendent does with distance learning and having teachers move between schools.”
Sheehy commented on the change of power in Cuba and Nebraska’s trade relations with Cuba.
“I don’t think we’ll see much of a change in culture in Cuba with the change in leadership from Fidel to Raul Castro,” said Sheehy.  “Cuba looks like it stopped in 1959.  There is no paint on buildings,” he said.
“Corn, beans, beef, pork – We are a great provider of goods to Cuba,” Sheehy said.  “And the governor has a great relationship with their trading arm.”
Becker thanked Sheehy and presented him with an official invitation to the quasi-centennial and invited him to ride along in the parade.  He was also given a permit for smoothies and an engraved mug with candy.
“My family always walks along parades,” said Sheehy.
Gov. Dave Heineman was next on the star-studded agenda of the Hartington group’s trip to the Capitol.  First, the governor shared some thoughts on economics and how it affects citizens.
“We have to produce more economy cars, so citizens won’t have to buy so much expensive gas,” said Heineman.
“We can’t build every road that every county and community wants,” Heineman said.  “We just can’t spread ourselves too thin.”
“Corn-based ethanol has a long future,” said Heineman, “but ethanol based on biomass has a long way to go.”
Heineman also commented on the continual fight over water.
“It is a matter of competing interests,” Heineman said.  “With the Niobrara River, for example, it’s the farmers needing to irrigate versus the entertainment interests relying on a constant downflow of river water, he said.  “The environment interests fit in there, as well.”
“It’s up to the Natural Resource Districts (NRDs) to find the optimum balance.  The issue won’t go away.  A balance must be found,” said Heineman.
Heineman was thanked for speaking to the group and invited to their lunch in “his” mansion.  He was also presented with a permit for smoothies, an engraved mug with candy and an official invitation to the quasi-centennial.
Heineman will be participating in the celebration’s opening ceremony.
The group moved to the Governor’s Mansion for lunch.  They were served shrimp linguini, asparagus and chocolate cake.
Joining the group were some special guests, including Sen. Dierks and Dr. Leverne Barrett, a professor at the College of Agriculture at UNL.  Barrett has led leadership retreats in Hartington for six years.  He is a candidate for a state senate seat in Lincoln.

Other guests present work in economic development positions:  Paula Bohaty and Michael Collins, of the Dept. of Tourism, Lindsay Papenhausen, who works with the Nebraska Community Improvement Program (NCIP) of the Dept. of Economic Development, and Eric Carstensen, president of the Nebr. Telecommunications Association.
After lunch, the Hartington residents moved to the chamber of the Legislature and listened to floor debate.  Sen. Dierks had the group introduced and the senators clapped in recognition and welcome.