Decatur, like most rural communities in Nebraska, has been in a downward spiral when it comes to population, business and housing starts. It does have an active group of volunteers, known as the Decatur Business Group, that meets on a monthly basis. In 2017, they contacted me to assist them in some areas that they were interested in working.

In order to narrow down their goals, I worked in conjunction with Rick Nelson, NPPD’s senior Economic Development Consultant, to facilitate a strategic plan for Decatur. The plan showed the top-rated concerns of the community are: attracting new business and helping existing businesses expand; improving the housing inventory in order to attract more residents; and implement a comprehensive commercial business district plan.

The village and our organization, Burt County Economic Development Corporation, will continue to look for grants to help move us towards the goals in the strategic plan. However, grants are becoming more competitive and most need a local match of dollars in order to qualify. There also is another way Decatur can help itself.

The citizens of Decatur will be receiving a ballot in the mail on April 22-23. This ballot will give you the opportunity to vote on LB 840, a locally controlled sales tax to be used exclusively for economic development. There will be two items on the ballot that you will need to vote on. Number 1 is the Decatur Economic Development Plan and number 2 is a one percent sales tax to fund the plan.

With state and federal grant programs drying up, LB 840 is truly one of the very few ways that a community can choose to help itself.

Seventy-two communities in Nebraska are already using LB 840 to implement their own economic development plans. Albion used it to provide a match for a downtown renovation grant. Atkinson used it to assist in recruiting a doctor. Ravenna purchased land for a new housing development. Cambridge assisted four new businesses.

The money collected, which is kept separate from the village’s general fund, can only be spent on the eligible activities that the Village Board previously approved in the Decatur Economic Development Plan.

There would be direct oversight by two different citizen committees. A review committee will look at all funding requests and make recommendations to the Village Board, who would always have the final say. There also would be a Citizen’s Advisory Committee appointed who will review the account and report to the Village Board in a public hearing twice a year.

No other community in Burt County receives as much of its sales tax from people outside of their community as Decatur. By voting in LB 840, you would be having those same people help pay to grow the community.

Loans to help businesses grow, assistance and incentives to build new houses, and fixing up the downtown could all be part of the plan. The great thing is that the village, not the state or federal government, is in control of how the money is spent.

If you would like any more information, please feel free to contact me at Burt County Economic Development Corporation at 402-374-2953 or burtcoedc@abbnebraska.com.

Don’t forget – in order for the LB 840 vote to pass, you must vote “Yes,” for the plan and “Yes,” for the one percent sales tax.