Central Nebraskans honored for service to economic growth in state

Ron Tillery and Sharon Hueftle have been honored as NEDA Professional of the Year in separate...
Ron Tillery and Sharon Hueftle have been honored as NEDA Professional of the Year in separate categories.(Phelps County Development Corporation/South Central Economic Development)
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 1:36 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KSNB) - Two central Nebraskans have been named the 2023 Nebraska Economic Developers Association (NEDA) Professional of the Year in separate categories.

Ron Tillery was honored in the community category while Sharon Hueftle earned the honor in the state category.

NEDA is the largest association of economic development professionals in Nebraska.

Tillery is the executive director of the Phelps County Development Corporation. He’s been with the organization since May 2016.

While he’s the primary contact for companies considering south central Nebraska as a new home or additional location, he also is responsible for conducting retention and expansion programs, processing loans and managing the operations.

Some of Tillery’s notable achievements include a thriving Downtown Holdrege - a new brewery, theater, shopping, and dining. Tillery’s team enticed BD (Becton Dickinson) to invest $100 million to expand operations in Holdrege in 2021. Other achievements include the expansion of the VA clinic, expansion of Briggs & Stratton, a new Hotel, and administering of $634,000 of small business loans.

“Ron has the ability to lift others up, he has a desire to share what has been successful for him, and how to replicate that success. He is top of his game when it comes to recruitment, he can sense if a project is not going to be right for Holdrege, but he works his hardest to make sure there is a place in Nebraska where the project can go. Ron has been involved with the improvement of the Holdrege downtown, housing, childcare, and industrial park development,” Jen McKeone, Cozad Development Corporation, said.

Tillery was instrumental in Holdrege being named the community of the year in 2022.

Sharon Hueftle is in her 18th year as the director of the South Central Economic Development District. She goes above and beyond, along with her staff, to help the communities and businesses in her 13-county region of the state.

A notable program of Hueftle’s is the HomeNE Learning Network, designed to connect and engage rural community leaders with one another and explore innovative approaches to housing development and redevelopment.

Hueftle and her team were instrumental in bringing a $1m EDCV Community Development Block Grant to a Hamilton County manufacturer in 2023. This funding is forgivable upon the creation of 6 jobs and retention of 6 jobs in jeopardy of elimination. SCEDD also administered $3.1 million in FEMA funds to build the first-ever community shelter in Central City, culminating in a dual function, state-of-the-art dome facility that meets tornado shelter requirements and can be replicated across the states to improve school and community activities.

“Sharon is an outstanding champion for rural economic development in Nebraska. She truly wants the best for each business she speaks with and is always able to answer a question with her wide net of resources. Improving Nebraska communities and the efficiency with which they operate is her superpower; it takes a quick glance to see that communities influenced by SCEDD and Sharon are thriving as a result. Sharon is a proactive woman and truly deserving of the NEDA Professional of the year,” Katie Benner, Board President of the Central City Child Development Center, said.