Today I’d like to continue the tradition of looking back and looking ahead in this year-end Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce column.

From the chamber’s perspective, the successful launch of the “Something Good Columbus” brand was probably the highlight of 2017 for our office. It gained traction on a wide variety of local platforms and we saw good adoption of the brand by businesses, individuals and other institutions throughout our community.

From a wider perspective, the opening of the new Columbus High School and STEM Academy would have to top the list of 2017 milestones. The chamber is extraordinarily proud to have supported the effort of CPS to bring STEM education to the district in a big way. The interest level in the STEM classes is a great testament to the value of the new facility, to be sure, but equally to the perceived value of the curriculum to our young people’s futures.

Another milestone from this past year that was a long time coming was groundbreaking on the Third Avenue viaduct. This structure is a symbol of the great progress being made in transportation infrastructure throughout our region. Progress on the Highway 30 Expressway is another hugely important step for our entire region.

In fairness, we saw a couple items not move as quickly this year as we would’ve liked. The bond vote on the library last spring delayed that project and we did not see the activity in housing to the degree I predicted 12 months ago. This is the nature of community development work: sometimes it calls for patience and perseverance.

Looking into the new year, I will characterize the chamber outlook as “optimistic.” We are optimistic that those shovels will dig into the ground on housing developments in Columbus. We are optimistic about the effects of moving the “Something Good Columbus” brand out to a wider audience using social media, in-person networking and one-on-one recruiting efforts to tell our story outside our borders. We are optimistic about projections for improving income in Nebraska’s ag economy.

In the big picture, we are optimistic for a continued strong local manufacturing sector as the national economy seems to be catching up with the local economy’s strength. Last week, a CNBC survey found that for the first time in at least 11 years, more than half of respondents to the survey rated the economy as good or excellent and the New York Federal Reserve raised its estimate of U.S. gross domestic product growth for the fourth quarter of 2017 closer to 4 percent -- the strongest we’ve seen in a while.

Before we get to the new year, the Columbus Holiday Basketball Tournament will be Thursday and Friday. On behalf of the four participating schools and the chamber, I want to thank the Holiday Basketball Committee, led by Don Mroczek and Todd Halligan. As a result of their work, the tournament provides financial support to the athletic departments of the participating schools: Lakeview, Scotus Central Catholic, Twin River and Schuyler.

K.C. Belitz is president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

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