CEDC focuses on health of business communities

By LIZ BABCOCK, CEDC PresidentSpecial for the Chief Economic Development is more than simply bringing new business into a community; it is also about promoting a positive attitude and helping to retain our current businesses. The founding members of the Custer Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) knew that when they made the decision to form CEDC. The CEDC is privately funded by businesses and individuals in Custer County. Since its inception in 2003, CEDC has provided support and resources to new and expanding businesses, fostering business growth and retention in the area. In 2003, a group of Broken Bow individuals met to discuss how they could help spark growth in the business community. The idea was developed to begin an organization and hire a developer. The small group canvassed their peers of business owners and the idea caught on. There would be two levels of members: ‘A’ members at $2,500 yearly per business and ‘B’ members at $500 yearly per business. Voting rights are given to ‘A’ members and three elected ‘B’ members. There are currently over 50 CEDC members. A chairman leads the board of directors for CEDC, and the organization has seen five chairmen over the past eight years including John Sennett, Bob Allen, RJ Thomas, Frank Steffensmeier and Loren Taylor. The corporation also has a president that serves as an economic developer. Liz Babcock has been with this position since September 2010. “Custer Economic Devel-opment Corporation is very unique in today’s economic development groups as it is privately funded by businesses and individuals without funding from taxes or government agencies”, noted Babcock. “Custer County is fortunate to have such visionary businesses and residents that are truly vested in their community’s future.” The mission of CEDC is simply to “Provide leadership to facilitate the retention, expansion, formation, attraction and revitalization of business in Custer County.” The organization also has a vision, “Fostering a positive business climate, creating jobs, economic diversity and increasing the tax base while improving the quality of life for the residents of Custer County. Working together with local businesses, individuals and public entities to champion positive and lasting economic growth.” The past chairmen of CEDC could list several tangible accomplishments, however, when asked what they feel their major accomplishment has been, their answer has been: attitude. “I believe we changed the attitude by taking the burden on ourselves, and keeping the attitude of our community upbeat,” noted Bob Allen. CEDC has strived to put a spark in the community and create momentum and optimism. This is evident in the multitude of projects that local residents have taken the initiative to conceptualize and turn into reality. A contributing factor to these successes is the partnership with the local city leaders, who are members of the organization. The challenges facing economic development encompass a wide range of issues including building partnerships, marketing, and economics. Current CEDC Chairman, Loren Taylor stated, “Our challenges are to maintain good relationships with everyone and keep all involved going the same direction. Also, we need to remind everyone that they can find almost anything in Broken Bow; so keep your dollars in your home town”. “If you want to make your living in Broken Bow, get involved”, Taylor added. Any business, organization and individuals interested in revitalizing economic growth throughout Custer County should contact Liz Babcock at custerdevelopment@gmail.com.