Local building boom just part of regional trend

Thursday, January 31, 2013

If you've put off visiting the McCook Community College Events Center, you'll be running out of excuses this weekend.

The McCook Area Chamber of Commerce's Home & Leisure Show is taking place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the MCC venue, a wide-0pen space that promises to provide a good atmosphere for visitors to explore the latest household goods and services and for businesses to display their offerings.

We recently wrote about the increasing amount of space available for conventions in McCook, and there are now plenty.

But the new events center is only part of a local building boom that includes the new McCook city facility, expanded Community Hospital, planned Red Willow County Jail, ongoing McCook Public Schools improvements now including the old National Guard Armory, the Armed Forces Reserve Center, several church expansions and many others.

McCook is not alone, according to a story Monday in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, which pointed to signs of prosperity in larger cities in the region stretching from the Dakotas to Texas.

"I truly believe it's all about confidence," Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether told the Argus Leader. "And in Sioux Falls, our people are confident our fiscal house is in order."

The story cited voter approval of a $115 million events center in Sioux Falls, Lincoln, Nebraska's new $168 million arena in a revitalized Haymarket district, Omaha's new $128 million baseball stadium for the College World Series, a new downtown convention center, renovated arena and hotel in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for nearly $140 million combined, a potential $25 million exhibit hall expansion in Bismarck, N.D. and $709 million in downtown building projects in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Unlike Frank and Deborah Popper, who argued in 1987 that the dry Plains revert to a depopulated "Buffalo Commons," a new study by Joel Kotkin for Texas Tech University argues that energy and agriculture, coupled with opportunities presented by the Internet, leaves the region poised for continued prosperity and growth.

It's true that agriculture, especially along the Republican River, has to adapt to changing climatic and political conditions. But it's also true that modern transportation and communications have stripped geography of much of its power to stifle commerce.

Southwest Nebraska, like the rest of the Plains states, has no reason to be pessimistic about the future, provided we are ready and willing to adapt.

Download the complete Texas Tech study here.

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