Social and educational spaces in city of Blue Hill support childhood development, economic growth

Nebraska Department of Economic Development recertifies Blue Hill as a Leadership Certified Community
Blue Hill LLC
Blue Hill LLC(press release)
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 7:51 AM CST
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BLUE HILL, Neb. (Press Release) - Innovative leadership in the city of Blue Hill bolstered recent support for a new aquatic center and a hub for early childhood development, earning ongoing recognition from the State of Nebraska.

This week, the Department of Economic Development (DED) announced the City’s ongoing membership in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. DED’s Central Nebraska Business Development Consultant and LCC Program Coordinator, Kelly Gewecke, honored local leaders during a special presentation on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Blue Hill is one of 31 Nebraska communities to qualify for the LCC program, which was created in 2011 to help villages and municipalities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Certified communities must demonstrate an understanding for and preparedness in strategic planning and technological development to help new and existing businesses grow. Qualifying LCC’s earn status in the program for five years and are required to maintain community websites to market local development, which may include information on available sites and buildings and regional employment opportunities. The community received initial certification in the program in 2018 and earned recertification in 2022.

Local leaders celebrated the opening of the Blue Hill Aquatic Center in June 2021, which included a relocation from the center’s previous site on a busy highway to an area with greater accessibility. Nebraska-based Hackel Construction began working on the $2.5 million project in the fall of 2020. The new facility includes updated amenities that the previous pool lacked, including ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility and a zero-entry pool. The project reiterates the community’s efforts to enhance Nebraska’s quality of life, which remains a cornerstone of the state’s LCC program.

“It’s a great honor for a community like Blue Hill to be recognized again as a thriving area for new development,” said Council President James Lounsbury. “Qualifying as an LCC shows our ongoing commitment by all who live, work and actively participate in efforts to preserve and enrich our great way of life for future generations.”

The City recently partnered with Blue Hill Community Schools in efforts to establish a new early childhood center through upcoming funding opportunities, designed to help retain and grow Nebraska’s workforce.

“For the past several years, Nebraskans have been working on strategies to help young families thrive in our rural communities,” Gewecke said. “Blue Hill’s school-city partnership has created an opportunity to support growth in early childhood development, and it is an example of the innovative leadership DED encourages in our LCC program.”

Improvement in community infrastructure continues to be a priority. Blue Hill recently converted streetlights and city owned buildings to LED lighting through the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska’s Commercial LED Lighting program. In addition, the City collaborated with South Central Economic Development District (SCEDD) to build an infill lot home with assistance from Tax Increment Financing (TIF), which allows local governments to invest in public infrastructure.

City leaders are also working with SCEDD on a nuisance abatement program to enforce local building codes. The community continues to invest in sewer line improvements and sewer extensions for commercial properties on the east side of Highway 281.

City Clerk Tricia Allen said collaborative efforts to prioritize childhood development, as well as housing and infrastructure improvements, emphasize Blue Hill’s commitment to Nebraska’s LCC program.

“The City of Blue Hill continuously strives to maintain and improve our hometown through local and regional collaboration,” Allen said. “By working together, we can tap into economic resources and discover new opportunities to grow.”