Grant: Raeoccupemus–Seize the opportunity
By Timothy Linscott
I was sitting in the meeting about the Henry J. Stumpf International Wheat Center last Wednesday when something struck my brain like a lightning bolt: houses.
When my wife and I took a tour of this town before moving here I saw all of the awesome things the town had to offer. I noticed the railroad had offices here, the hospital was huge and had many services available, the school employed many young teachers and families and the ethanol plant had a strong work force.
The retail outlets were amazing for a town of just over 1,000 people.
What puzzled me was there were no apartment complexes. There were few houses over two bedrooms for sale and nothing at all for rent.
With being such a hub for jobs and commerce, where did people live? Upon moving here I posed that question to a few people and was told Imperial or Ogallala.
Sitting at that meeting last week I heard representatives from the University talk about the jobs that will be created and the families that will be moving to Grant.
Where are they going to live?
I was very lucky to find a nice home for rent through my job. If that opportunity did not come about, I’d be living in Ogallala, where my wife works.
Per month, my family spends an estimated $1,500 in Grant in utilities, daycare, groceries, rent, gasoline and miscellaneous items (movie rentals, eating out, entertainment, etc.), which equals $18,000 per year.
According to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, one dollar spent in a community is recycled seven times in that community.
My family puts $126,000 back into the community by living here, not including taxes or medical expenses, using the state economic development numbers. .
There are going to be jobs created by the new Stumpf International Wheat Center and it could mean an additional five families could be moving to Grant.
Using similar figures to my own, five new families could bring in $630,000 to the city each year. Looking at conservative numbers and associations that many of these people will have through this project, drawing people to Grant, the commerce side of the community could double that figure. Yes, Grant could gain $1.26 million in retail sales a year alone.
This doesn’t include what the city could reap as far as taxes for new housing development areas.
I did some asking around and there are young families wanting to move here. The main reason they don’t pack up and move here? No housing. Job opportunities, yes, but no place to raise their family.
Young people just starting their lives without children could use apartments or affordable rentals.
There is a housing need in Grant and a real opportunity to grow the community exponentially. If community leaders do not begin actively pursuing these opportunities soon, another community, like Imperial and Ogallala, will do so and Grant will be missing a huge chance to grow for the future.
These opportunities could mean a strengthening of existing retail businesses as well as bars and restaurants, not to mention various services like legal, accounting and insurance. It could mean an expansion of businesses, things not here now but could be in the future that are needed.
Intangible things also need to be looked at as many of the people involved with this project will either be permanently involved or involved in the community for a period of years. Service organizations like Lions, Rotary, the Chamber, the fire and rescue department and many others have a chance to capture volunteer help.
Grant is going to be a drawing point for worldwide agricultural movers and shakers, educators and people involved with the university. What Grant does with this opportunity will either mean this community will prosper, or another community will prosper.
I am putting a call out to all community leaders in Grant, and Perkins County for that matter, to come together to quickly assess the needs associated with this project. We all need to act quickly to make sure this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity does not pass us by and leave us saying ‘I should have, I could have, but didn’t act.’