SIDNEY — In spite of recent economic upheaval with the sale of Cabela’s, Sidney officials are working to assure the city is ready for new potential growth.
With the $5 billion sale to Bass Pro Shops in November, Cabela’s headquarters left the state, along with most of Cabela’s managerial positions.
The resulting layoffs and people leaving the area resulted in a flood of housing with declining prices on the local real estate market.
City officials are working closely with Bass Pro Shops management to make the ownership transition as smooth as possible. Cabela’s had employed almost 2,000 of Sidney’s 6,800 residents.
But in the shadow of economic turmoil, new opportunities open up for new businesses and new entrepreneurship.
Even before the sale of Cabela’s, two new businesses opened in Sidney. Ohio-based Lukjan Metal Products, manufacturer of sheet metal, pipe and ductwork for heating/air conditioning systems, started with 30 employees.
“A lot of their products are being used in new housing along Colorado’s Front Range, so they were looking in the area for a new plant location,” said Melissa Norgard, Sidney’s economic development director. “We’re close to Denver, so Sidney made sense for them.”
Canada-based Agri-Plastics recently opened a new plant in Sidney and hired 20 new employees. The company molds plastic into starter pens, indoor calf pens, farm equipment and other ag-related products. The company has already added a second shift to meet demand.
The city is working closely with the state economic development team, sharing ideas and discussing opportunities.
“The state is helping us facilitate an entrepreneurship and startup day on March 16 at the WNCC Sidney campus,” Norgard said. “People from Invest Nebraska will be here and some mentoring people for an all-day presentation.”
Another company in attendance will be Econic, which equips new business startups and entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills needed to adapt in an ever-changing marketplace.
“For people who want to stay in the community, now might be a good time to consider a business or their own,” Norgard said. “We want to help them explore those opportunities.”
Another aspect of Sidney’s outreach is contacting companies across the region, letting them know what the city has to offer. Norgard called it “pounding the pavement.”
“Many markets are booming and companies are having trouble recruiting talented people,” she said. “We have a ton of talented people who want to stay in the community. If a company is looking to expand, we have lots of affordable housing, a low cost of living and no commute time for workers.”
Norgard said they’re having success. The city has shown some of the Cabela’s buildings to a couple of interested companies, but details are still to be announced.
“When many companies think of Nebraska, they only think Lincoln and Omaha,” Norgard said. “We’re only a 2½-hour drive to Denver and they don’t realize we’re that close.”
She added that Sidney is fortunate in having four different internet service providers with lots of high-speed fiber optic cable to serve the technology needs of most businesses.
“Although it might seem there’s a black cloud hanging over the area, there are positive things happening in the background,” Norgard said. “As soon as we can start announcing them, it should give people more certainty about maybe staying in the community.”