The Nebraska Community Foundation works with community, organizational and donor-advised affiliated funds serving more than 250 communities located in 78 counties. NCF and its affiliated funds have reinvested more than $185 million in Nebraska since 1993.
For the Nebraska Community Foundation, HomeTown Competitiveness is not about towns competing against one another. It’s about hometowns competing in a global economy.
The HomeTown Competitiveness (HTC) is a holistic, community-driven economic development strategy based on homegrown assets. HTC builds on the kinds of local resources that nearly every rural community – no matter how small – already has. NCF works with local task forces organized around the assets of four HTC Pillars:
NCF co-founded HTC to help create new economic opportunity in rural Nebraska. HTC uses a “come-back/give-back” approach to rekindle residents’ belief and hope in the future of their hometown, thereby transforming community conversations and psychology.
In 2002, leaders in Ord, Nebraska, which is located in Valley County, more than 50 miles north of Interstate 80, came to the Nebraska Community Foundation for help. With more than 20 “priorities” for economic development they were struggling to make real progress. The Nebraska Community Foundation offered them an opportunity to become the pilot site for a new approach to rural development led by NCF: HomeTown Competitiveness, or HTC.
NCF and its partners, the RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship and the Heartland Center for Leadership Development began an intensive on-site intervention with community leaders in Valley County.
Within five years the economy in Valley County had changed: 104 new, expanded and/or transferred businesses; 332 new full time jobs; $89 million invested locally. New jobs created new opportunities for former residents to move back and new residents to move in. Ord, Nebraska, was growing again for the first time since the 1930s.
The success of HomeTown Competitiveness in Valley County stirred interest throughout the state, across the nation, and won the 2004 Innovative Program Award of the international Community Development Society. Our “come-back—give back” approach was reported in countless articles, including in the New York Times. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation is a strong supporter of the HTC Collaborative and highlighted the program in its 2005 Annual Report Video.
But most importantly, people in small towns were watching and thinking, “If they can do it in Ord, we can do it here.”
HTC is now being implemented in sites across Nebraska and in several other states. No two HTC sites are exactly alike, however, in each location local leaders work through the HTC framework and build upon hometown assets and resources that are already available in the community.
The HTC Web site provides additional collaborative information and success stories to help small towns thrive.
The Byron Community Foundation Fund was established in July 2011. During its first year the Fund received 18 gifts of grain worth more than $100,000. With additional cash gifts and pledges, the Fund raised over $450,000 in less than a year.
Chair Jeremy Heitmann has some ideas about why the gifts of grain have come pouring in. “You can say we had the wind at our backs with the farm economy. People are capable of giving now, much more than in the past. And it’s a win-win situation when you can get a full tax deduction and still write off all of your expenses. A lot of people were surprised they could do this,” Heitmann said.Read more →