LINCOLN – Efforts to create a welcoming environment for new and existing businesses in the city of Tilden (pop. 953) have earned recognition from the State of Nebraska. This week, the Department of Economic Development (DED) announced Tilden’s recertification in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. DED’s LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke visited Tilden to honor leaders for their commitment to new development.
Gewecke thanked the City of Tilden, the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District (NENEDD) and FIVE RULE Rural Planning for their efforts during a special presentation on Tuesday, September 12th.
“Nebraska’s LCC program encourages strong, regional relationships, which are often important building blocks in creating rural development opportunities,” said Gewecke, who also serves as DED’s Central Nebraska Business Development Consultant. “We are excited to help build those partnerships from a state perspective as Tilden prepares for ongoing growth.”
Tilden is one of 31 Nebraska communities to qualify for the LCC program, which was created in 2011 to help municipalities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Certified communities must demonstrate economic preparedness through strategic planning and technological developments to help new and existing businesses grow. Qualifying LCCs earn status in the program for five years and are required to maintain a community website to encourage development, which may include information on available sites and buildings and regional employment opportunities.
For the past seven years, Tilden residents have been engaged in multiple community planning efforts, which began with a 2016 downtown infrastructure study. Following the delivery of this study, the City Council engaged with FIVE RULE Rural Planning to complete a comprehensive community planning process. That process involved collaboration with NENEDD to complete a community needs assessment survey that would ultimately drive the update of the city’s comprehensive development plan. The plan prioritized the need for new infrastructure, housing, and businesses.
Since the plan’s completion in 2018, the city has gone on to complete essential infrastructure projects. Improvements included the installation of a new well, water billing software and a sewer lift station. Tilden leaders also prioritized infrastructure upgrades on First Street, which included updated drainage and utilities. As a result of a partnership between the Tilden Meadow Grove Foundation and the City Council, the community utilized support from the DED-administered Civic and Community Center Financing Fund (CCCFF) to complete a study that provided a development concept and cost estimates that are now being used to plan for the potential construction of a new community center.
Housing development projects included the conversion of Conover Properties in downtown Tilden to create upper-story apartments. A public-private partnership between the city and area developers led to the development of a 15-lot residential subdivision in 2020. The new subdivision, named Meadow Bend, is the site of the community’s former nursing home and currently has three new residential homes.
“Just as updated infrastructure can enhance Tilden’s business community, these residents also rely on affordable, multi-generational housing to help drive economic growth,” Gewecke said. “Extensive improvements like these take patience and innovative thinking from city and economic officials.”
Bobbi Pettit, founder of FIVE RULE Rural Planning, pointed to the community’s consistent drive in working to enhance quality of life in the Tilden area. “I’m continuously impressed by the persistence of local leaders, who keep returning to the table to ask, ‘what’s next?’”
City leaders have continued to prioritize community engagement to create economic opportunities. In the summer of 2022, local business owners participated in a locally funded downtown revitalization study that resulted in the city’s adoption of a downtown capital improvement plan (CIP). The City Council is currently planning to complete the infrastructure, sidewalk, and streetscape projects identified in the CIP. At the time that the city completed the comprehensive planning process, a community-wide blight and substandard study was also adopted, which included the downtown business district. The Council utilized the study to assist with the new development and redevelopment of blighted lands and structures in this area.
The community initiated building updates and new construction projects through DED’s Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program. Projects included aesthetic improvements at Antelope Memorial Hospital and the construction of a new downtown medical clinic. The community also celebrated expansions at Quick Serve Oil and Carhart Lumber, as well a new car wash built by Pentagon LLC. Nebraska’s Micro-TIF (Tax Increment Financing) program, which allows rehabilitation of existing structures more than 60 years old, assisted in Peterson Law’s renovation of a vacant downtown building. The law firm moved into its updated facility in 2022.
Tilden voters adopted Nebraska’s Local Option Municipal Development Act (LB840) in 2022, which allows incorporated cities and villages to collect and appropriate tax dollars for economic development. In 2023, the city leveraged funds generated by the LB840 program to receive $95,000 in assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development’s (RD) Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) to start a revolving loan fund for local businesses.
Pettit said Tilden’s LCC qualification is a testament to the community’s ongoing work to support growth in northeast Nebraska. “Becoming Leadership Certified is proof of Tilden’s hard work and commitment to improving local lives. It’s exciting to watch them create a bright future for their entire community.”
For additional information about the Leadership Certified Community (LCC) Program, contact Kelly Gewecke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 308-627-3151, or visit https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/programs/community/lcc/.