Founded in 1985, Twin Cities Development (TCD) supports economic growth within Western Nebraska. The association is always eager to welcome new businesses and supports newcomers like family, TCD Executive Director Jordan Diedrich reports. This support includes connecting talent and industry, providing housing options, offering site selection assistance, and supporting economic development projects.
TCD is eager to attract a diverse industry portfolio to the area to encourage a robust regional economy. Target industries include advanced manufacturing and precision metals, plastics and chemicals, oil and gas support industries, agribusiness and food processing, health services, and data centers.
The association advocates for local entrepreneurs with hands-on support and services that will help their businesses expand. Its help can save these businesses “countless hours of research and analysis,” with their one-stop shop approach, Diedrich points out, and all of this saving comes free with no strings attached.
TCD supports the community as a whole by coordinating workforce programs, responding to requests for proposals, managing communications, applying for incentives, participating in housing development, and more.
The Nebraska Panhandle enjoys an ideal location in the heart of the United States. The cities of Scottsbluff and Gering are perfectly positioned for cost-effective product distribution to fifty million customers within a day’s drive. In addition to four-lane highways, the community boasts rail service through Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and Union Pacific. And with two runways and thousands of flights annually, the Western Nebraska Regional Airport in Scottsbluff keeps residents connected to the rest of the country with direct flights to Denver, Colorado.
The area is dubbed the Twin Cities because Scottsbluff and Gering have grown together to form the seventh-largest urban area in Nebraska. “Our region, known as the Western Nebraska Panhandle, has everything you need and is close to everything you want,” Diedrich summarizes.
CNBC ranks Nebraska the seventh-best state to live in, he notes. The region is known for its Midwest lifestyle, which is famous for its spirit of cooperation and close-knit communities. Within this neighborly region, the Twin Cities area boasts particularly strong attributes.
Recreational opportunities abound, especially for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. The unique and stunning local landscape includes Chimney Rock, Lake Minatare, Wildcat Hills, Monument Valley Pathway, and Scotts Bluff National Monument.
The community hosts a range of events, from Old West Balloon Fest, Oregon Trail Days, and Bands on Broadway to Scotts Bluff County Fair and Rubidoux Rendezvous gravel bike race. Families enjoy local attractions like the Riverside Discovery Center Zoo, water parks, swimming pools, golf courses, disc golf courses, splash pads, and numerous lakes and parks.
The region has also been home to the national hot air balloon races for the last three years in a row and has just been selected to host the first-ever U.S.A. gravel cycling national championship races. The event is expected to bring thousands of cyclists and tourists to the Nebraska Panhandle over the next two years.
In addition, several new recreational projects have recently been completed. A new section of the Monument Valley Pathway has just opened that includes a pedestrian bridge over Highway 26, connecting the north side of the path with the rest of the city. The path now stretches a total of 7.1 miles, meandering along the scenic North Platte River and the historic Scotts Bluff National Monument.
Gering is home to the Western Nebraska Pioneers, a community baseball team whose high-level games provide a popular pastime for families during summer evenings. The newly remodeled Oregon Trails baseball and 23 Club baseball complexes are all set to host multiple baseball and softball tournaments.
Downtown plazas in both Gering and Scottsbluff have recently undergone exciting renovations. The new plaza designs will create a more welcoming space for community events, Diedrich explains. Scottsbluff’s revamped plaza was already home to the Bands on Broadway Summer Concert Series, the 18th Street Farmers’ Market, Best of the West Beer and Wine Fest, and the Cinco De Mayo Celebration. Now, there will be a permanent stage near the great lawn, as well as fire pits, picnic tables, shade trees, and curved brick archways over the two plaza entrances.
The region’s location places it in the heart of one of the United States’ fastest-growing economies but with a low cost of living. In fact, Scotts Bluff County’s cost of living is 19.8 percent lower than U.S. averages, Diedrich shares.
This cost savings extends to utilities. Nebraska is the only state with completely publicly-owned utilities, which boost reliability and affordability, he says. He explains that Nebraska residents pay some of the lowest electric rates in America because non-profit, cost-of-service-based rates lead to prices that only include the cost of generating and delivering power. In addition, twenty percent of the state’s power comes from renewable sources.
The region’s superior services include remarkably reliable and affordable internet. The area boasts faster broadband speeds than many metro areas due to a lower population density.
Another advantage is relatively low real estate prices on everything from vacant land and residential homes to commercial buildings. The rental costs of commercial and residential properties are also lower than in many other areas of the country, and TCD has a housing loan fund of $3.3 million to spur residential development in the region. The money has successfully funded fifteen projects in the last year alone. Current projects include a new townhouse development in Scottsbluff and a container home community in Southeast Gering. The latter will include seventy-five residential lots, multiple container home layouts to choose from, and community greenspace.
There is an “extreme demand,” for housing in the region, Diedrich says, and TCD is eager to help the community keep up to increase the local workforce, which will then help attract even more business to Western Nebraska.
Another factor that sets the region apart is its entrepreneurial spirit. Small, family-owned businesses abound throughout the community. Several organizations assist local entrepreneurs in promoting a stronger economy, including the Nebraska Business Development Center. Here, certified consultants help startups, established businesses, and entrepreneurs with everything from sales, financing, and planning to transitioning, training, and more. In 2020, the center served over 2,000 Nebraskan clients, creating or saving more than 250 jobs and generating over $40 million in business investment, says Diedrich.
The TCD eCenter, meanwhile, is an incubator that helps startups, existing businesses, and entrepreneurs access resources so they can reap the full benefits of available services. Co-working spaces are available, as well as coaching and other readiness tools.
An extension of the innovative eCenter, the Entrepreneur Kitchen provides food entrepreneurs with a commercial-grade space to turn their vision into a business. This resource means that start-ups will not be stymied by the cost of a commercial location; instead, they have easy access to a newly remodeled space complete with new stoves, ovens, large preparation spaces, and storage space. The goal is to provide startups with “every chance at success,” Diedrich says.
There should be plenty of new opportunities for these startups to explore now and into the future. “The future of our community is bright,” Diedrich says, and TCD will be there every step of the way to make sure that businesses can take advantage of these upcoming opportunities.