Entrepreneurship Helps to Engage the Youth of Nebraska through the Building of a Straw Bale Business Incubator/Grocery Store
In Nebraska, keeping small rural communities alive and vital is a hard road. Part of the puzzle is keeping the rural youth local and involved. Who would think straw built construction could create the buy in needed to interest the youth?
The Village of Cody, home to 150 residents, is mostly farmers and ranchers. Residents know that entrepreneurship is important in creating more businesses and gain jobs but how do you inspire the youth towards this concept?
Building a grocery store in Cody originated from a combination of village leaders trying to attract more residents to the town, a teacher’s brainstorm, and a high school sophomore’s Future Farmers of America project. The nearest grocery store was nearly 80 miles round trip. Not surprising to the residents of Cody, the entire town rallied around the idea of finally having a grocery store (the Circle C Market) after a decade without one. The town board secured two Rural Development Rural Business Enterprise Grants to help build the facility, purchase necessary equipment for the project and fund entrepreneurship education in the Cody-Kilgore Unified School District. The rest was up to the community.
Students of the Cody-Kilgore schools and residents are working to complete the straw-bale building, an environmentally-friendly design that uses straw as insulation. The building’s design includes a classroom so students can learn on the job and at their desks. The initial incubator occupant will be a grocery store with other possible businesses to be located within the facility. Youth entrepreneurs are coached and encouraged via the school district’s educators and local adult entrepreneurs to consider a future with unlimited possibilities beginning with a grocery store. Youth will manage every aspect of the store; from stocking shelves to placing orders from vendors. This model gives students a sense of ownership of their town and community, and teaches important leadership and employment principles, like coming to work on time, customer relations and basic business management skills. Social and work skill opportunities will be provided to special education students. Job training and personal pride cannot be under estimated when building a personal or community’s future.
The youth have more than proven themselves through the sweat equity and strong work ethic building the store takes. Plans include a Grand Opening in 2013. They take pride and ownership in it and are excited to be their own entrepreneurs. The Village of Cody is a perfect example of what a community accomplishes when they build an alliance. Cody clearly lives their motto, as a “Town Too Tough To Die”.
Through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (Recovery Act), the Village of Cody received support initiate entrepreneurship education, to write a business plan for the proposed grocery store and to purchase store equipment. When the original location for the business incubator/grocery store fell through, a second RBEG was used entirely for building construction. This RBEG was initially leveraged with $99,950 in matching funds but this amount has been exceeded through fund raising, donations of building supplies, local contractors expertise and community involvement.
A partnership of training and technical assistance providers for these young entrepreneurs includes the Nebraska Department of Education, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Kearney and the Center for Rural Affairs.
When complete this endeavor will be a big win for a small rural community with benefits almost too numerous to list; local education creating local entrepreneurs, access to local foods in a food desert, elimination of long distance travel will save time and conserve fuel, local dollars spent local keeps dollars at home and increases the tax base. It is anticipated that the project will provide 10-15 employment opportunities in the grocery store and any additional small businesses within the facility.
The Village of Cody located in Cherry County, a 2008 presidential declared disaster county, is part of the Nebraska Sandhills.