When discussing gaps in Columbus offerings, community members have expressed their desire to see more retail, entertainment and dining options open in the community. There is aid available to help entrepreneurs make that happen.
“Along with the efforts in the downtown and with the development and growth being experienced in the community, more restaurants, entertainment venues and retail stores are needed,” City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen said. “There is a program in place that allows the community to have the potential to be even more of a ‘true’ destination for residents and visitors by providing funding to these new or existing retailers.”
When the State of Nebraska in 1991 established the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (LB840), it authorized incorporated cities and villages — if approved by local voters — to collect and appropriate local tax dollars, including sales and/or property tax, for economic development purposes.
The City of Columbus’ economic development plan’s goals include:
- To actively promote Columbus as a place where businesses can locate and be profitable
- Broaden the tax base
- Create new job opportunities
- Diversify Columbus’ economic base
- Encourage attraction of new businesses
- Foster capital investment in the region
- Grow existing companies
- Strengthen existing industry clusters
- Strengthen technology skills of workforce
To utilize the destination business funds available, there are parameters for entrepreneurs hoping to get the LB840 funds. Any new business would have to open in a building that is at least 50 years old, according to Van Iperen.
The funding could be used for building renovations, equipment purchases and working capital.
“Aging buildings need roof repairs or maybe new doors and windows, but an entrepreneur who is building out a business a lot of times doesn’t have that type of money to put into a building,” she said. “This allows them assistance with that.”
There will be a maximum cap of $150,000 per business for funds, though there are tiers based on the type of business (retail, entertainment and restaurant) that help determine what each could receive. Also factoring into that would be the size of the building.
Entrepreneurs interested in applying have to submit an application with a business plan to be reviewed by the City’s Citizen Advisory Review Committee, which is made up of various local business professionals. That committee then makes a recommendation to the City Council for final approval.
The City’s economic development plan didn’t come out of nowhere. To implement an LB840 program, communities had to formulate a written economic development plan which, if approved by voters, becomes the foundation for the collection and expenditure of local tax revenues for economic development under which the municipality’s LB840 program operates.
In 2018’s general election, Columbus voters approved the City of Columbus reallocating one-tenth of the existing 1% sales and use tax previously approved by voters in a May 2016 election to fund an Economic Development Program of the City. “Proposition A” passed with 66.45% (4,462) of all voters in favor of it, according to Platte County Election results.
In that same election, voters approved the City’s proposed economic development plan known as “Proposition B,” which stated it would annually appropriate from local sources of revenue $425,000 until 2027 when it would have to go back to the public for a vote. It passed with 63.50% (4,179) of all voters saying they were in favor, according to Platte County Election results.
Van Iperen also encouraged entrepreneurs to utilize other business resources available to the public, citing the Central Community College Entrepreneurship Center and the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District (NENEDD)
CCC Entrepreneurship Center representative Kelli Faltys is based out of the organization’s office at the Columbus Innovation Center, 165 24th Ave., Suite 300. She can be reached at email@example.com. NENEDD’s Jeff Christensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We would love to be able to incentivize new businesses to get into some of the older buildings in the community,” Van Iperen said. “We’re hoping to fill some vacancies in the downtown area and other spots throughout town.”
For more information, contact Van Iperen at Jean.VanIperen@columbusne.us.
Other Nebraska communities with LB840 plans, according to the State of Nebraska, include:
-South Sioux City