Columbus comes out strong in 2021 | Local
From the start of construction on the Columbus Community Building to the opening of new businesses, Columbus has seen positive growth throughout 2021, along with negative aspects such as shortages of housing, employees and equipment.
Local officials have pointed to the ups and downs of 2021 and they believe Columbus will not be stopping in its advance anytime soon.
If there’s one thing that can be said about the past year, said Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce president Dawson Brunswick, it’s that the Columbus business community is persevering. .
Brunswick noted that although the sales tax increased in 2021, shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively impacted businesses large and small.
“The important thing for small businesses is to get product… our small local dealerships to restaurants are now facing shortages in some areas,” Brunswick said. “If you don’t have cars online, you can’t sell cars, and if you don’t have stuff on your shelves, you can’t sell it.”
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And, he added, this is especially true for manufacturers. When manufacturers cannot meet demand on their own, it causes shortages for other companies that sell these products.
Along with the product shortage, 2021 also experienced difficulty in finding and retaining employees.
The Nebraska Department of Labor reported a 1% unemployment rate in Columbus for November 2021, but it’s a double-edged sword. A low unemployment rate also means a smaller pool of applicants from which to recruit people.
Brunswick highlighted the chamber’s Drive for Five program, which aims to attract potential employees and connect current local high school students with local businesses so they can learn about job opportunities available in Columbus. The chamber has had a strong recruiting season this fall, he added.
“A good number of resumes have come back and around 25% of them generally turn into internships that we know of,” Brunswick said. “There is 25% that we know going elsewhere and there is about 50% that we don’t really hear about; they can end up here, maybe not.
A big key to attracting people to Columbus – and Nebraska in general – is to physically bring them here so that they can see firsthand the opportunities available in the community, Brunswick said.
“We’re kind of like Nebraska recruiting back when Nebraska was good at football,” he said. “People would be like ‘Nebraska?’ and then they get here and then you will experience Lincoln, you will experience Memorial Stadium, that even with a record of 3-9 you still have sold out. Columbus is like that where if we can get him to come here, we can usually convert them.
The chamber saw an increase in membership last year, Brunswick said, noting the work the organization has done with its Columbus Bucks. Columbus Bucks can be used in the same way as regular cash at participating chamber businesses.
Brunswick said a large amount of Columbus Bucks has been sold this holiday season – companies have given their employees bonus Columbus Bucks to keep that money local and support other businesses.
The chamber also ran a Christmas promotion from Black Friday to December in which those who spend Columbus Bucks during that time are signed up to earn an additional $ 500 in Columbus Bucks, to encourage people to spend those dollars they have. .
Columbus is a community that definitely supports its local small businesses. Brunswick stressed the importance of shopping local – it’s the local businesses that support youth sports teams and other activities, events and causes.
“If you go to Lincoln or Omaha and do your vacation shopping, that money is no longer there,” he said. “It’s less money for this business owner to contribute to Centraide, to the high school STEM Academy. The various things that we have going on that take local money, you don’t see “X Business” in Lincoln coming in and donating to these programs. “
In 2021, The Flats at 5th apartment complex, 2676 E 5th Ave., opened near Walmart and affordable senior housing arrived at the Columbus Family Resource Center, 3116 18th St. But the units are always filled faster than they can be built.
A study shared by RDG Planning and Design at Columbus City Council in early December showed that housing in Columbus cannot keep up with the city’s ever-growing population.
From 2010 to 2020, Columbus increased its population by 2,000 and the city could grow to more than 26,000 over the next 10 years, according to the study. According to the 2020 census, the population of the city of Columbus is 24,028.
Brunswick noted that the study took into account that there are 2,000 jobs open in Columbus. According to the study, if a third of these jobs were filled, nearly 670 housing units would have to be built to meet this need.
“We’re making up for it. We still have a backlog and a deficit, ”Brunswick said. “I think almost every community in America has seen this since the 2008 crisis. And no one is really caught up, but you are seeing good growth. “
Homes that are on the market are quickly ripped off, according to Cheryl Richardson, real estate agent for kwElite.
“We still don’t have much on the market right now for buyers,” said Richardson. “I see a few more but the inventory is still low and they are going fast.”
As for the New Year, Richardson said the start of 2022 will most likely look like 2021.
“… What I read is that it’s going to stabilize,” Richardson said. “But for Columbus, I’m not sure… We are so little accommodation in Columbus for the number of people coming in.”
When it comes to tourism, things seem to be getting back to normal after the pandemic.
“Right now, when it comes to overnight stays, we’re back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Katy McNeil, director of the Columbus area tourism and convention bureau. “It’s really nice to walk past our hotels in town and see them full.
McNeil said there had been a 25% increase in occupancy and revenue from accommodation facilities in Columbus from 2020 to 2021. Of course, 2020 had been a full-blown monster in its own right in due to COVID.
“We have seen a steady increase every month, over the past year,” she added.
McNeil said youth sports largely attributed the increase – it’s a major reason people travel to the community. From basketball and football to baseball, softball and all kinds of tournaments, foreigners have boosted the local economy by supporting the sport.
“I can’t say enough good things about the tournaments we’ve had this summer that have really helped us come back up,” McNeil said.
Columbus’ many amenities help attract people to the community. McNeil noted the Columbus Area Antique Fire Apparatus Museum. Large numbers of out-of-town visitors have come to the area to see Santa Claus during Christmas time.
The Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial in Pawnee Park is also a big attraction in Columbus, especially during the summer for those who have taken the Lincoln Highway, she added. The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway in the United States.
Other draws to this area are the sports facilities at Columbus, Pawnee Plunge, Glur’s Tavern and the Horn T Zoo in Monroe, McNeil said. Other companies have seen a business boom in 2021, such as STAR Escape Rooms in Columbus, she said.
“They have had a great year,” added McNeil. “They broke records for the number of people who walked through escape rooms.”
As for 2022, ’23 and ’24, McNeil said she looks forward to the completion of construction projects around the city – the Columbus Community Building in downtown, the new casino with a possible hotel in west of Columbus and the new Columbus Community Hospital country house under construction in the northern part of the city.
Plus, McNeil said, Camp Pawnee will be considering renovations and she predicts the town of Humphrey will become a destination later with her new pool plans and the recently opened Veterans Memorial.
“Over the next five years, we’ll have a lot of improvements, a lot of new businesses, new restaurants, new things popping up,” McNeil said. “So it’s a really exciting time here.”
2021 also saw the start of construction of some community projects, including the Columbus Community Building, which will house the Columbus Public Library, a children’s museum, an art gallery, a cafe, the Columbus Town Hall. and other amenities. The old library building was demolished earlier this year to make way for the new structure. The building is slated to open in the spring of 2023. Once the city offices move into this building, the current city hall will be demolished for parking.
Columbus Exposition and Racing announced in July a partnership with Caesars Entertainment Group to build a Harrah’s casino and racetrack. Located off of Highway 81 northwest of the city, the development project will include a new horse racing area, a 40,000 square foot casino, sports betting and space for restaurants and shops. Retail. There are also plans for a hotel there.
Passers-by may also notice construction underway at the north end of town near the Columbus Wellness Center – the Columbus Community Hospital opened a new country house in October, which will be located behind the wellness center. The new facility will include tennis courts, a football and soccer field, volleyball and basketball courts, and a suspended track for running and walking. It will also have fitness, wellness, childcare and rehabilitation services. The facility is tentatively scheduled to open in December 2023, which could be postponed if construction materials are delayed.
Hannah Schrodt is the editor-in-chief of The Columbus Telegram. Contact her by email at [email protected]