In February, 2009, then Speaker of the Legislature, Mike Flood, was the first person I told that I had accepted the new CEO position in North Platte. We were at the State Chamber's Business Hall of Fame banquet and Flood literally jumped out of his chair. Mr. Norfolk was leaving Norfolk.
The CEO position in the newly merged North Platte Area Chamber and Development organization was one that intrigued me. I knew the two missions overlapped, that selling economic development as a product helped chamber membership sales but I also knew a chamber manager's daily tasks were markedly different than those of an economic developer. I had experience on both sides and I suspected the merged Chamber/DEVCO board members didn't fully understand the differences between the actual tasks done on each side of the business. I was attracted to the challenge and after visiting North Platte I could see this community had great potential. This town has so many innate advantages, it was about to really grow.
The first three years were relationship and board development years. It took that long for the board to shift from, "Well at DEVCO we..." and "The Chamber did...." to a unified, mission-focused mindset. North Platte has been a challenge, but it is on a roll. I'm proud of the contributions and successes we have made, together.
North Platte went through the Great Recession nearly like it didn't happen. We had two record construction volume years and have had month to month increases in sales tax collection in spite of the recession and Amazon. Our 2.5% unemployment shows we are at near full employment, but I've been told Hobby Lobby had 400 applications for their 65 new positions last week. There are currently more than 700 open jobs in North Platte!
Our new Shot in the Arm housing initiative will help create 47 new residences and we are working on the next step, to make room for new recruits to town.
My personal running total of development project successes will reach $73 million when these homes are complete. I'm proud of our record, but for the Mauk family, it is time for a new chapter in our book of life.
For the future, I see redevelopment of our downtown (doable, but will require building owners driving the process), an expansion of retail south of I-80, possibly including a recognized name, and one or more, new, large employers somewhere within Lincoln County. We have a bright future, if we can stay out of our own way!
We have important, large projects,sometimes simmering, sometimes cooking, but alive and possible! Many of our projects are relationship based, the client knows me but not my replacement, so I want to be sure the relationships are smoothly transitioned to my replacement.
On September 1st I announced that Linda and I have decided it is time to move back east to be closer to our children, grandchildren and, yes, great-grandchildren. I hope to find something meaningful to do, perhaps a non-profit that needs help or a governmental affairs position.
It may be a few months before we leave, but I want to thank our leadership, board and membership for their strong commitment to this community and for me personally.