The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Projects worth more than half a billion dollars in city's near future

 

Caitlin Sievers

Sidney Mayor Wendall Gaston informs the crowd at last night's economic briefing that the city is prepared for big projects in store for the future.

An economic development briefing at Sidney's Holiday Inn, meant to inform area business people and contractors about the millions of dollars worth of projects in store for the community's near future achieved an unexpectedly high turnout of 175 people.

"Sidney, Nebraska, has worked very hard to set the table over the past 25 years as we've kind of reinvented ourselves, reinvented our economic development efforts," said city manager Gary Person.

The city addressed all its long term infrastructure needs to make way for growth.

There are some $200 million in new projects already underway or set to begin in 2014 in Cheyenne County. This leaves room for millions of dollars of potential related projects for area business people.

Sidney is defying the myth about rural America's demise, Person said. In 2012, the city completed a comprehensive plan which set the stage for new development.

"Good things don't happen by accident," Person said. "It's the result of people working together and having the willingness to work hard, make critical community decisions, showing the political savvy and courage to meet those challenges and working a successful partnership between the private and public sector."

Projects currently in the works include the new $52 million Sidney Regional Medical Center, the $25 million Bell Pole and Lumber plant, the Adams Industries rail expansion at $15 million, the Lodgepole Creek apartments at $9 million and the Cabela's housing development that might value in the $300-$500 million range.

Since 1990, the county's valuation grew from $447 million to $1.1 billion. The city's valuation rose from $131 million to $417 million. Area businesses handed out 5,500 paychecks in 1990, while the number is now around 8,000. Lodging revenues grew from $1 million to $7 million in the past 25 years.

Although Sidney is doing well, especially compared to other rural communities, the area has a major housing shortage.

"It's something we've struggled with in the past," Person said. "We've had some success stories, but it hasn't been enough."

Even though hundreds of new homes and housing units were built over the past 20 years, there still aren't enough residences in Sidney for those working in the city. There are at least 1,000 more people working in Sidney than the estimated total population.

Mark Nienheuser pointed out that it's expensive to build in Sidney, because many of the supplies must be imported. Cabela's wants the community to know that they are committed to Sidney. The company also wants local companies to benefit from all the projects going on in the community. Cabela's knew, when it decided to expand in this area, that it needed to address the housing shortage.

"Housing in Sidney, is a challenge, has been a challenge," Nienheuser said.

Cabela's recognized this. The company regularly has more than 100 job openings and can have a difficult time recruiting because of the lack of quality housing.

"We're gonna stay in Sidney, we're gonna expand in Sidney, we're gonna deal with the issues," Nienhueser said.

Cabela's is in the business of selling fun, but it also knows it needs to take care of its employees, said a company architect, Dennis Armstrong. The company's first leap into the business of housing was the 72 unit Lodgepole Creek apartment complex. Construction on this project is underway with foundations in the ground and framing set to start this month.

Units are expected to be available in the spring. This complex is unique to Sidney in that the rents are market rate instead of income restricted.

Although the main contractors for this and for the company's housing project will be from the front range, the secondary contractors will probably be local.

"Local contractors are a must for a whole variety of reasons," Armstrong said. "They are and have been a part of these projects to date and we want them to be a part of our projects going forward."

In addition to the apartment complex, Cabela's has a multimillion dollar housing project in the works. The company expects this project which will be located on the east side of town to eventually cover 40 acres and feature 750 housing units. This subdivision with curving street design will feature a mix of different sized lots.

Cabela's expects the streets to be installed next summer and hopes that after re-zoning and platting some lots will be available by the end of 2014.

Production builders for the project will most likely come from the front range, but custom builders will probably be local. Potential builders have voiced concern that there's no housing in Sidney for workers, superintendents and suppliers. These builders suggested the possibility of training locals to work on housing production.

Cabela's doesn't know exact pricing for the houses yet but expects them to start at between $160,000-$180,000 with the custom homes possibly at $400,000 or more.

Sidney mayor Wendall Gaston assured the crowd that the city was ready to take on all these new projects, because of the excellent management in all city departments.

"We are geared up with staff, with good leadership to make this happen," Gaston said.

Others across the state have asked Gaston how Sidney lands exciting projects and continues to grow. Gaston's answer is a strong partnership between the county, city and local business.

"If you're not from Sidney, get ready, because I'm gonna tell you how you succeed in Sidney is being part of the partnership," Gaston said.

Some of those present were excited about the new development in the area.

"I think it's wonderful," said Cathy Snyder who works in Sidney but lives in Bridgeport. "The community and everyone in it knows that housing is the biggest problem, but is Sidney ready for $400,000 houses?"

 

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