- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - Three communities in central Nebraska are coming together in an effort to serve and retain residents in the area.

Officials with Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney spoke Tuesday afternoon at the Central Nebraska Leadership Summit. The officials described the communities as siblings who sometimes squabble but are a part of a family that sticks up for each another, the Grand Island Independent (https://bit.ly/1QKTqFZ ) reported.

Although the communities compete, they defend one another and are proud when one of them sees success on a statewide level, such as when Grand Island was selected as the new home of the Nebraska State Fair, said Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse.

“Grand Island can beat up on Kearney, and Kearney can beat up on Grand Island, and we can both beat up on Hastings,” Clouse said. “But the reality is, it’s like family … I didn’t really like somebody outside the Tri-Cities area speaking badly about one of our communities.”

Hastings City Administrator Joe Patterson said it’s important to maintain collegiality and cohesiveness between the communities to combat a migration to eastern Nebraska cities, like Lincoln and Omaha.

“If we don’t stay together as a community of 130,000 people … as a collective, then we’re going to be a doormat,” he said.

Grand Island Mayor Jeremy Jensen advocated for cohesive leadership into the western part of the state as well. But he said the focus is central Nebraska leadership and he’s committed to fostering a “solid” relationship.

All three officials shared their city’s individual challenges, and they all agreed that housing and unemployment are common problems.

“Most of the time you want to celebrate incredibly low unemployment rates, but it can be a detriment, too,” Jensen said. “I’m certainly not advocating for a hopefulness that we have a whole bunch of layoffs, but when you have 2.5 percent unemployment, it makes it difficult to expand too much.”

The officials also urged residents to come forward and serve as positive role models and leaders for the communities.

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Information from: The Grand Island Independent, https://www.theindependent.com


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