Small Nebraska town tries to boost development

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JUNIATA, Neb. (AP) — Leaders of a small Nebraska town have declared the entire community to be blighted in an effort to encourage development.

The town of Juniata took that step last year, so tax incentives could be used anywhere in Juniata to spur development.

But officials are still working on a plan to take advantage of the blighted designation, so it's not yet clear how well the idea will pay off.

Michael Mead, with Juniata's Community Redevelopment Authority, said local officials hope business will thrive in town, so they're trying to make Juniata attractive.

"We'd just like to see more business come to town," Mead said. "We'd like to attract local business, we'd like to create jobs for people, so that we have the type of businesses where people will come to town, want to work for those businesses, do new construction, do new improvements on existing homes."

Glen Kroeker, of Juniata, said he thinks this effort will be good for the village, but officials need to decide where they want to focus their efforts.

"In this day and age, small communities are having a hard time trying to find their identity," Kroeker said. "It's tough for us specifically because we're so close to Hastings. This is a way for us to bring unique buildings and businesses that will set our village apart."

Gothenburg's city attorney, Mike Bacon, has been hired to help draft a plan to use tax incentives in Juniata. He has worked with over 50 Nebraska cities on similar plans.

The first plan Bacon drafted suggested that Juniata's Community Redevelopment Authority consider buying and selling properties itself, but local officials decided they don't want to manage the redevelopment directly.

"We want people to complete projects on their own — like building new homes and opening new businesses — and we will give them incentives in the form of tax breaks, sewer and water discounts, street improvements, etc.," Mead said.

So Bacon is revising the development plan. Mead said he hopes the new plan will be completed this summer so the town can move forward.

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