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Editorial: QGF helps us help ourselves

Editorial: QGF helps us help ourselves

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You’ve no doubt heard the ancient Greek motto that “the gods help those who help themselves.” (Some think it comes from the Bible, but you won’t find it there.)

It seems most apt in regard to North Platte’s Quality Growth Fund, which needs a pair of “yes” votes in the Nov. 3 election to continue for another 10 years.

Though The Telegraph no longer endorses specific candidates, we again will offer our opinions this election on ballot questions. Editorials on Nebraska’s proposed constitutional amendments and petition initiatives will follow the next two Sundays.

Since we’ve previously expressed our appreciation for QGF here on June 28, it won’t surprise anyone that we’re urging North Platte voters to back it as they did in 2001 and 2010.

Last week’s “Quality Growth Fund at 20” series displayed the vast depth and breadth of community projects, business research and small-business loans made possible by setting aside part of our city sales-tax collections under 1991’s Legislative Bill 840.

QGF, North Platte’s unique way of using that LB 840 tool employed by 73 other Nebraska cities, has proved to be a tool for all seasons and economic challenges.

We don’t have much more to add, except for a few reflections on that motto about what comes from helping ourselves.

There really isn’t a better short description of what QGF has done for North Platte.

Put another way: If we in greater Nebraska don’t help ourselves — or, more accurately, each other — who else will?

Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, shared a telling anecdote along those lines when he spoke in North Platte last week.

It wasn’t about QGF, but western Nebraskans will appreciate it because Slone, who grew up in Gering, said he doesn’t let big-city Nebraskans forget there’s a state and hundreds of towns beyond Lincoln’s O Street.

But “for the last 20 or 30 years,” he told North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp. members, “my friends in Omaha would say, ‘Slone, you’re nuts. They’re never going to come back. Everybody’s going to move to Omaha or Lincoln.’”

Just as we thought.

Yes, Omaha and Lincoln have the population to draw the major employers that largely fund our state’s budget (at least when the rest of the country isn’t treating Omaha itself as one big hick cornfield, which also happens too much).

It’s gratifying that at least one well-placed, displaced westerner is reminding them — like Omaha’s Ben Nelson, Nebraska’s McCook-bred former governor and U.S. senator, often did — that it’s a 500-mile state and we’re all in this together.

But we can’t count on them listening.

Which brings us back to the Quality Growth Fund.

LB 840, the tool that makes QGF possible, dates to Nelson’s first year as governor in the 1990s. It’s one of the very few tools the Legislature has given Nebraska’s smaller cities and towns to grow their own economies.

Note well those three words: “grow their own.”

That’s exactly where North Platte has kept QGF’s focus for 20 years, even when it’s been used to help major projects like Hobby Lobby and now Chief Development Inc. come to town.

Look at the small businesses in The Telegraph’s series — the employers of three, eight, 10 or so. If you missed their stories, please check them out on nptelegraph.com.

No matter how successful Nebraska’s cities might be in landing bigger employers, small businesses will always be our backbone.

QGF helped some of them get started. It’s helped prepare places for others to locate. And, when COVID-19 struck last spring, it helped many dozens of them keep going.

Look around town and see the results. Ask our small business owners — people just like you — what difference QGF has made, especially during and since last spring’s dark days.

The Quality Growth Fund has been many things since 2001. Above all, it’s been how North Platte’s people help themselves.

The two city questions on North Platte’s Nov. 3 ballot would keep setting aside part of city sales tax collections for QGF, under the same conditions in place since 2001 and for the purposes that LB 840’s current version allows.

Residents need to vote “YES” on both questions to renew QGF through March 2031. We highly recommend you do.

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