Tuesday, March 16, 2010


We get bombarded with ED television commercials on a daily basis but this blog isn't about the dysfunction stuff sold on TV, it's about economic development in Cambridge. Headline news in Cambridge has ED firmly in the local spotlight. After reading the newspaper account of the last city council meeting, here is what one of the areas newer residents (me) got out of it...

Other than the town representatives, I didn't read of people thinking the 77 acre residential/commercial development plan makes much sense at the moment. There is property already available that isn't being developed, blighted property is a problem in town, and some streets are damaged while some are not even paved. It sounds like the city council may not be sure where they can spend the funds available legally either.

As an outsider, my opinion is worthless I know, but we moved here for a reason, and it wasn't because of the economic development plans of the town. We moved to the country to get away from development so I ask what is it REALLY you want your town to become? Since there is an economic development group in town, I'd say that growth is what the town has in mind at least to some extent.

First off, why would someone want to move to Cambridge? Is it the fine shopping experiences available here? How about the variety of fine dining establishments? The many cultural opportunities? Nope... probably not prime reasons for most folks considering a move to Cambridge. I'd think more that people would want to move to Cambridge because of the schools, small town atmosphere, and a job.

The new hospital addition could be a major catalyst for the town in my opinion. The recent re-opening of the ethanol plant shows that a commodity based economy can bite you when the commodity doesn't sell well. My hope is that the ethanol plant goes great guns, but you have to admit it's track record isn't the best just yet at under three years of age. The hospital will attract workers and there should be some place for them to buy, rent, or build. Not everyone wants to build a new house next to an old house just because the lot is available. Not everyone wants a house for that matter knowing that a rental unit is what they really need. Some folks want a big building lot, some don't.

Development won't happen overnight. Without a local economy generating numerous local high paying jobs, people end up going after the job and either commute or move away. Without the jobs that can support development and growth of the town, there seems little reason for folks of working age to move here. Outward migration will continue to happen without new job creation.

We see many folks working more than one job to make ends meet around here. As near as I can tell, a lot of farms don't support the farmers family without some additional income either. By a city slickers standard, that says that workers have to want to live here and it's not a place people think of when searching for opportunity. Seems to me that ED would be wise to find ways to attract new jobs in the area that are not agriculture based. Ag business is of course where we are now, but it doesn't have to be that way forever.


  1. I would be curious on your thoughts and ideas of businesses that are not Ag related, since you have lived at and traveled to other places. You never know where a brain storm can lead you.

  2. Glad you asked that!

    Niche business opportunities abound for someone wanting to start a business based on their hobby for example. Town as spent quite a bit of money trying to get folks educated with some new technology to help build a business, and expanding that training to how to actually start a business might be helpfull.

    Though this is just speculation, it would seem that the new hospital could spur further medical investment with laboratory services that may be farmed out to surrounding communities.

    Speaking of the hospital, there could be a market for transportation services in the future if the hospital chose to expand and try to attract patients from Kansas and other SW Nebraska locations.

    How about adding some tourism dollars to the mix? For example, some small towns along the Pacific coast support kite flying competitions as the wind blows off the ocean most days. Seems like the wind blows here most days too. A chili cookoff sounds like a good idea to me, but I'm finding most folks don't go for spicy food too much around here.

    Telephone call centers are a real possibility if you can get enough manpower. There is a backlash building against companies that use foreign call center support and attracting that type of business back to the USA could generate many new jobs with the right contracts and incentives for business to locate here.

    Too bad there isn't a good 4x4 area for the public to go play at. With virtually no off road opportunities, folks that want to play leak their tourism dollars. Those tourism bucks could stay closer to home if there was a reason for folks to drive to our little corner of the world for a chance to go wheelin'. Fuel, food, lodging, auto parts, and auto repair could all benefit.

    And a real wild idea... The only place in the world that can process what are called rare earth minerals is in China. Even though the USA has rear earths, we have to ship all of it to China for processing. Why not process it here? Now I have no idea what all might be involved in a venture like this, and I'm pretty sure we really don't want something like a mineral processing plant in our backyard. The point being that the sky is likely the limit if somebody finds just the right combination of idea and commitment.

    Back to the real world, since we are on a rail line, getting materials to manufacture anything can be accomplished, so many small manufacturing opportunities should exist. A plastics molding company for example could make just about anything here in Cambridge and ship anywhere in the world with the right products and marketing. An example is an outfit in Lake Havasu City, Arizona that makes plastic storage boxes.

    Whatever business is attracted to the area, they will certainly take into consideration our electronic infrastructure provided. Cambridge is rather unique with the high speed internet connections available in a town this size.

    Here is one more... why not have a centralized wholesale florist/greenhouse that provides for much of the central USA? Again, I'm just rambling now, but as you can see, there are some possibilities that may not have been thought of.

    These are the first things that come to my mind. I hope others will share their ideas.

  3. Thanks for the brain storm. You do have some good & interesting ideas. Rare mineral processing never even crossed my mind.

    I think the one thing Cambridge needs to really figure out is just how different this small town is from any other small town. I know we have fiber and a decent business district, 3 banks, and different places to eat, hair salons, etc, but what would really attract businesses. But again every business is different so it would differ in what would attract them. I can ramble too, but I think Cambridge is a great little small town, but there are many great little small towns. How do we differentiate ourselves from the "others".. I think the people that live here want to keep it a great little small town but would like to see it with big city benefits. But to keep small towns alive we do have to grow or at least maintain. Otherwise we will be the next Wilsonville. Now if we can just figure out how to make that all happen.

  4. Here is another idea, and something else to think abokut. Why not become the recycling center of the USA?

    In the attached article, scroll down to the part about "Filling America's Heartland". You can find it here... http://www.aolnews.com/2010/03/17/opinion-america-in-2050-where-and-how-well-live/19402312/?icid=main|htmlws-main-n|dl9|link3|http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aolnews.com%2F2010%2F03%2F17%2Fopinion-america-in-2050-where-and-how-well-live%2F19402312%2F

    And a final note, It turns out I may actually be a fortune teller as I blogged about this in the McCook Gazette more than 2 years ago. Here is a link to that blog... http://www.mccookgazette.com/blogs/hoag/entry/14961/