The “ABC” prize for America’s Best Communities is a national competition for economic revitalization in small towns and rural communities across the Frontier Communications Service Area in 27 states. To put it simply, it asks: which towns are actively working to create positive change in their communities? This prize aims to find those towns and help fund investment in their economy.
When 50 quarterfinalists were announced back in April, Nebraskans were excited to hear that Kearney was the only Nebraska city selected from the pool of 140 small-town applicants. As such, the Kearney Hub reported that the city received $50,000 to develop a strategy to accelerate its local economy and improve quality of life. “A lot of work went into this, and a lot of citizens stepped up,” said Mayor Stan Clouse to the Hub. “It was a proactive effort.” As one of the 50 quarterfinalists, Kearney had six months before 15 semi-finalists were selected, and finally, a winner and two runners-up will be named in April of 2017.
“This award validates what so many of us who call Kearney home know,” said Judi Sickler, executive director of the Kearney Area Community Foundation. “We could have written a book about all the ways Kearney is unique, progressive and cohesive. Unfortunately, the grant application only had so much room to tell our story.”
This week, officials announced that unfortunately, the city was not one of the 15 selected to continue to the next level in the competition. However, despite not moving to the next level, the initial plan developed during the contest to create a new workforce career center called Kearney Works will move forward!
You can find more information in this Nebraska TV article, but the most important notes are that Kearney Works is a six-month pilot program designed to meet employer workforce shortages in IT, advanced manufacturing, education, retail, and health care. Clouse says, “We remain excited about Kearney Works, and will continue to focus on ways to implement the program in our community.” The career center, which will operate as a nonprofit, will focus on people working $9-$14 per-hour jobs who cannot attend post-secondary school. The goal? To help them land jobs that pay from $15-$25 per hour by offering soft skills training and certificate programs in professional driving, medical services, and information technology.
The center will be an extraordinary benefit for Kearney’s unemployed, and it’s a testament to the city’s tenacity that they’ll continue the initiative even without increased financial support. The career center will follow in the footsteps of other outstanding Nebraska career centers like Heartland Workforce Solutions, which provides self-service resources like resume critiquing and job-related copying and faxing, free workshops, veteran services, and more. In essence, there’s no short supply of Nebraska resources to help job seekers meet successful results.
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Photo credit: Nebraska TV