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Friday, May 6, 2016

Eco-retreat hopes to open in July

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A new agricultural and environmental tourism retreat plans to open in late July after its owner advertises for and hires a professional landscaper and a culinary expert.

Andela Taylor of rural Cambridge told Red Willow County commissioners Monday morning that she has "all the balls rolling in motion," in preparation to open "Hilton Farm Eco Retreat" -- a tourism attraction that will provide hands-on experiences focusing on nature, wellness, culinary arts, arts and crafts, horticulture and agriculture.

Taylor's acceptance and use of a $131,000 CDBG grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development requires the creation of 3 1⁄2 jobs -- 11⁄2 of which are held by Taylor and her husband, Dave.

Taylor is starting now to advertise for the other two full-time jobs which must be made available first to low- to medium-income applicants, she told commissioners. One position is for someone with horticulture expertise, Taylor said, including grounds management, landscaping, maintenance and nature-based tourism. The second position is for someone with culinary expertise, she said.

Taylor originally had planned to be open only seasonally and off-season for holidays and special events such as weddings and receptions. However, she told commissioners she is now investigating the possibility of staying open year-round.

Commissioners will discuss the retreat again at their weekly meeting June 1, when Taylor returns with a job hiring schedule and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance documentation.

The development of the Hilton Farm project has been funded since August 2005 with Community Development Block Grant money from the state's Department of Economic Development, and owners Dave and Andela Taylor are investing a matching $123,000 in financial and in-kind support to complete the project. Because the NDED grant must be funneled through a government entity, Red Willow County is acting as treasurer for the grant funds.

The Taylors' CDBG grant is not from the county's revolving loan fund program.

Steve Charleston, CDBG program manager of the Community and Rural Development Division of the NDED, wrote in a letter to commissioners that failure to meet the job creation obligation as contracted may result in the payback of the CDBG project activity funds to the state.

Commission Chairman Earl McNutt told Taylor that he "would hate to think" that the county would have to come up with these funds, if Taylor does not fulfill her contract with the NDED.

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