Ground broken for visionary effort

Nebraska is the happiest state in the country, announced Lt. Governor Rick Sheehy, one of the state’s dignitaries on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Mid-Plains Community College Custer Campus last Friday. The designation as the happiest state came from’s Happiness Index, which used unemployment figures, foreclosures and nonmortgage debt to determine a state's overall financial well being. “It shows Nebraskans aren’t spending money we don’t have,” said Sheehy. “It’s individuals stepping up in communities and making things happen.” Sheehy went on to commend the citizens of Broken Bow and surrounding area for doing that here, and making the dream of a college campus in Broken Bow a reality. “Education goes hand in hand with economic development,” Sheehy stated. U.S. Senator Ben Nelson also spoke at the event, and called the new campus “good news for students, business owners and tax payers.” “If it weren’t for community colleges, a lot of residents wouldn’t get the education they need,” said Senator Nelson. “This effort is truly visionary.” MPCC President Dr. Michael Chipps also addressed the large audience on hand at the ceremony. Like the Senator and Lt. Governor, Dr. Chipps commended the community and the CEDC for its progressive attitude. “The presence of higher education is very important to building a viable community,” said Dr. Chipps. The Custer Campus Board - Jerry Adams, R.J. Thomas, Stuart Fox, Russ Rice, Larry Coleman, Rex Boland and Jim Jenkins - will actually lease the buildings to MPCC. Mid-Plains will be responsible for the upkeep and staffing of the facility. The campus will include a 4,057 square-foot building for classrooms, and another 3,228 square-foot technical lab annex. Mid-Plains will partner with Bellevue University in offering a wide variety of certificates, diplomas, two-year associates and applied science degrees and technical training. Partnerships with Chadron State College and Fort Hays State University are also planned, and Dr. Chipps says other programs are being explored as well. A second phase of development on the campus will provide an opportunity for additional expansion of governmental, educational and other facilities. Funding for the $1.5 million project will come primarily from private donations. Those donors who have already made contributions to the campus were recognized at Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony. All donations go through the CEDC (Custer Economic Development Corp), which is a 501 (c)(3), and are tax deductible. So far, more than $1.2 million has been raised. Local community support has raised more than $1 million, with Mid-Plains has contributed $200,000. Another $300,000 needs to be raised to complete the campus project, and each level of giving will be recognized with the donor or donor’s family or organization’s name located on the campus. The new 7-acre Custer Campus will be located on the west edge of Broken Bow on the south side of Highway 2, across from Pamida. Custer Campus will allow the opportunity for Custer County to become a regional hub for governmental agencies and offices. Mid-Plains Community College will offer educational classes from high school through 2-year associate degrees, while Bellevue University is an accredited 4-year university that will offer extensive undergraduate and more than 18 graduate degree programs. This expansion of services is scheduled to begin in August 2011.