Developers learn from volleyball great University of Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook

June 16, 2018 GMT

SCOTTSBLUFF – The Nebraska Economic Developers Association (NEDA) met in Gothenburg last week to discuss future opportunities, but it was a noted sports figure who drew a packed house.

John Cook, who coached the 2017 Nebraska Huskers volleyball team to their fourth national championship, spoke about teamwork and how the team slogan “With each other, for each other” played out over a championship season.

NEDA board member Starr Lehl, who’s also Scottsbluff’s economic development director, shared one of the coach’s stories that meant a lot to her.

One of the 2017 incoming freshman volleyball players showed a lot of potential, but was still making several errors. Cook told her to run a lap through the bleachers for every mistake. She made 13 during that practice.

When practice wrapped up for the day and his freshman was up in the stands, Cook couldn’t find the rest of the team. One of his assistants pointed to the bleachers, where all of them were running laps with their teammate.

“Wow! That’s a team,” Lehl said. “The Gothenburg High School volleyball team joined us and they were really inspired.”

Although she describes herself as an “includer” that gets everyone involved, Lehl said that since Cook’s talk, she’s thought a lot about what makes up a team and how members can call on each other in any situation.

In addition to the inspiration from Cook on teamwork, NEDA members spent a lot of time discussing the challenges their member communities will face in the near future.

One of the topics was the ability to use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to make commercial and industrial economic growth happen. Earlier in the year, NEDA commissioned a study on the topic.

One of the major findings concluded that between 2011 and 2016, counties that used TIF generated gains in population. Every $1 million of residential TIF investment supported approximately 14.8 jobs. That number increased to 19.5 jobs for investments in the commercial and industrial sector.

“Although there’s been opposition in the legislature, it’s clear that TIF has helped communities all across the state,” Lehl said. “It’s an important tool for us when it comes to economic development.”

When the next session of the Nebraska Legislature gets underway in January, one of the main issues (yet to be adequately solved) is property tax relief.

Lehl said there are lots of areas where Nebraskans are overtaxed in comparison to their neighbors. One of them is on motor vehicles.

“Most neighboring states have a flat fee for vehicle renewals,” she said. “Why do we have to pay tax on our vehicles every year? We paid tax on them when we bought them.”

She also pointed out sales taxes, where excessive exemptions could be eliminated if not for opposition from numerous lobbying organizations.

“I just think we can come up with some kind of system that’s fair for everybody,” Lehl said.

Next year’s annual NEDA conference will be in Wayne. Lehl said local members will submit a bid to host the event in Gering in 2020.