The Kearney area economy has developed with an enviable balance to include manufacturing and distribution, higher education, healthcare, hospitality and tourism, agriculture and agricultural products and trade.
Major employers located in the community include the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Good Samaritan Hospital, Baldwin Filters, Eaton Corporation, Morris Press, Marshall Engines, West Pharmaceutical Services and Chief Agri/Industrial Division.
The city’s location along Interstate 80 places it near several major metropolitan areas, including Omaha, Lincoln, Denver, Kansas City, Des Moines, Wichita and Cheyenne—making it quite an attractive place for business establishment and development. The area’s large labor pool is also an appealing factor for relocation and expansion. In fact, the Kearney Labor Area, which consists of Buffalo County and its eight surrounding counties, totals nearly 200,000—with a county unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, as of 2011.
Partnerships are a vital factor in maintaining a strong, progressive economy. The Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce works with several additional organizations to position the Kearney area for the future. Chamber members have collaborated with local, state and federal government officials to develop such entities as Buffalo County Economic Development, Kearney Visitors Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic, Wellness Works of Kearney, Gateway Farm Expo and Leadership Kearney.
Services provided by the Chamber include referrals, publicity and exposure, as well as professional development and business resources. It is important to know that the right business tools can make the difference between profit and loss. One vital tool is membership in the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce. Membership provides immediate return on investment with networking and marketing opportunities, small business and professional support, information and governmental representation.
The Economic Development Council of Buffalo County is a countywide, nonprofit corporation. The Council is made up of 11 board and seven ex-officio members. The mission statement of the Council is to facilitate economic growth and development of primary business in Buffalo County and the region that contributes to a healthy economy and enhances our quality of life. The Council maintains the utmost level of confidentiality and is not subject to public disclosure of projects. Companies can bring projects to the Council and, depending on investment and job creation, the Council may determine a business package to assist the company in accomplishing the investment and job creation objectives.
The Council’s action plan focuses on the satisfaction and development of the primary employment sector and the source of new dollars flowing into the community from outside. In addition, the Council responds to questions about the community, county and state from those employers wishing to consider a new primary location. The Council has identified advanced manufacturing, logistics/distribution, data centers and back office/fulfillment centers as our target industries.
Approximately 2,000 acres of land in Kearney and Buffalo County are zoned for manufacturing or industrial uses. About 350 acres are located on land controlled by the Kearney Airport Authority and will be available for appropriate industrial use. In addition, the city of Kearney has secured ownership of 116.1 acres dedicated to economic development projects that increase the community’s diversity of high-tech industry. This acreage known as TECH oNE Crossing provides for extensive and immediately available technology and power infrastructure suitable to high-end data centers. The city has entrusted the marketing and incentive planning of TECH oNE Crossing to the Council.
Agriculture remains Nebraska’s principal industry and chief source of income, with approximately 45.6-million acres—or 93 percent—of its total land area consisting of farms and ranches.
Each year, Nebraska farm products contribute more than $15 billion in cash receipts to the U.S. economy, placing it fourth in the nation for this industry. Buffalo County consistently ranks in the top 10 counties in Nebraska in the production of alfalfa hay, corn and beef. In 2010, Nebraska ranked second in ethanol production, utilizing 40 percent of the state’s corn.
The Kearney Area Ag Producers Alliance (KAAPA) seeks to obtain ample opportunities to increase member profits and net income by providing its members with possibilities to produce, or invest in, value added agriculture, while offering the public new products and benefits. Agritourism is a vital venture the area producers are supporting in order to increase the area’s profitability.
Supporting Nebraska’s largest agricultural industry, the Nebraska Beef Council represents the cattle producers in the state by strengthening demand for beef in the global marketplace.
Kearney is the proud home of two significant agricultural events, each held at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds. The Gateway Farm Expo, an annual indoor fall event, was established in 1969 as a regional forum for agricultural producers and businesses. The Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic, held in winter, is designed around the agricultural enthusiast, complete with numerous competitions, exhibits, entertainment, vendors and much more.