Imperial on the move
While many towns in America are still suffering from the post 9-11 slowdown, a determined group of business people in Imperial are digging deep to keep their community on the move. Within the span of a few weeks, the Chase County community of 1,982 has welcomed the first radio station in the town's history; witnessed the opening of a new telephone communications business; and learned that Imperial has been chosen as an extended campus site by the Mid Plains Community College Area. Those combined developments will provide a dozen new jobs for the already thriving Southwestern Nebraska town. Even more important, the positive happenings may be the signal for even bigger things to come. Last week, Imperial development boosters joined state officials for a trip to Canada, where they met with a company considering the establishment of a biomass production facility in the United States. The plant would use wheat straw and corn stalks to produce ethanol and other byproducts. The advantage, over conventional ethanol plants is that farmers could market their grain and still have leftover waste to sell to the biomass plant. According to reports received by the Imperial representatives, the Chase County town is a leading contender to become the biomass production site. Data is still being evaluated, with a decision on the plant location expected in early 2004.
The Imperial city administrator, Jo Leyland, is excited about all the changes which are taking place. "The thing I like best about it is that it gives those who have moved away an opportunity to return home," she said. Examples of this are two of the key employees for Allo Communications. Nick Colton has returned from Denver to be the network and customer service manager, and Crystal Peterson, who formerly lived in Brighton, has moved back to Imperial to be Allo's operations manager. The co-owners of Allo, Brad Moline and Russ Pankonin, opened the business last week with six employees, and will add another in the near future. Aided by a $138,000 block grant loan from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the company expects to reach the 25-employee level within two to three years. The new radio station, KADL (pronounced "Cattle,") is also off to a quick start. "This is a wonderful community. We have received great support," said Dave Stout of McCook Radio Group, the station owner. At 102.9 on the FM dial, KADL is a Class A station with three employees and hopes of adding a fourth. Yet to come is the extended campus site, which the college plans to operate with a half-time director and a varied array of class offerings.
In a depressed economy, it's easy to let yourself, and your town, get down in the dumps. But, with a combination of energy, action and entrepreneurial spirit, Imperial is going all-out to keep the community moving forward.