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A Shift in Economic Strategies
Keith County E3 hosts entrepreneurial learning sessions

A gathering of Nebraskans leading the way toward building sustainable local economies met in Keith County last week to learn from each other, share progress, and tour local businesses as part of an ongoing peer learning program.

This was the fourth peer learning session of Energizing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (E3), an initiative designed by Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF), NetWork Kansas and e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems to help communities build a culture that supports and encourages local business growth.

“Today in Nebraska, economic opportunities are created by local entrepreneurs as opposed to the traditional model of recruiting a ‘home run’ employer from somewhere else,” said K.C. Belitz, NCF’s COO. “That’s why NCF is proud to have begun this E3 initiative to build more successful ecosystems to grow entrepreneurs across Greater Nebraska.”

The three-year endeavor, which began in 2021, aims to empower local leaders to further business, community and economic development in Valley County, Holt County, Keith County, Sidney and Red Cloud through extensive training, education, and peer learning opportunities. So far, the cohort has held three other sessions in Valley County, Holt County and Sidney.

The Keith County session began in Paxton, where participants dined at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and toured two local businesses, Hehnke’s grocery store and Pronto Pit Stop. The session continued in downtown Ogallala, where the group learned from owners of The Tin Cactus Boutique, Makenzi’s Boutique, U-Save Pharmacy, Buenz Gifts and Adams Bank & Trust.

Participants presented community updates at the Kenfield Gallery, sharing successes and challenges with each other. The conversations sparked inspiration and new ideas.

Boxcar hosted the E3 cohort for dinner, which featured a talk by Valley County E3 member and business coach Caleb Pollard, who also co-owns Scratchtown Brewing Company in Ord. The day ended at Second Chapter Brewing, Ogallala’s new brewery housed in the former public library building.

The following morning the group toured Front Street then returned to the Kenfield Gallery to delve deeper into their plans for the few months before their next peer learning session.

“The momentum we heard in all five E3 communities was impactful,” Belitz said. “Through presentations and conversation, their energy, momentum, activity and growing confidence was readily felt. And what was particularly interesting was how each of the five is finding their unique path, which is just what entrepreneurs do.”

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