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Brewery can help revitalize downtown

Downtown Schuyler has many businesses started by enterprising people who brought their dreams, passion and hard work to town. 

And now local business leaders are promoting the historic buildings to people who know a good opportunity when they see it. 

Schuyler Economic Development has put out the welcome mat for an entrepreneur to open a brewery in the Downtown Historic District.

Downtown revitalization is the goal of both the Schuyler Chamber of Commerce and the Schuyler Economic Development. Chamber members were looking for unique ways to draw people into town, and that led to the idea of a brewery which also features a gathering place, just like local taverns.

“They are not a new thing but they are becoming very popular as a destination, as a hangout, and gathering place,” said Jackie Farrell, who is executive director for Schuyler Chamber of Commerce as well as the coordinator of SED. “We would like to have something like that here in town.”

The chamber works toward promoting existing local businesses and SED is working to attract new businesses.

Farrell said that a local brewery and pub could increase traffic and bring life to the downtown area.

“They turned a lot of buildings and neighborhood around, and really made it as a destination and a showcase for the communities that they’re in,” Farrell said.

The city owns properties that could house a brewery, she said. All the buildings need are the right people to get the business started.

Breweries are unique because they create specialty beers not found in traditional bars and taverns. Customers are also attracted because they can see the equipment and brewing in action.

Schuyler Economic Development has resources such as loans and funding to help new businesses get started.

“We are looking for a dreamer that has an idea that we can help get behind and in some way, help them get going,” Farrell said, adding that many people aren’t aware of the assistance available to prospective business developers.

Other needs, opportunities

SED also is working on a program to renovate the storefronts of other businesses downtown. 

Schuyler also has the need for more family restaurants, fast food restaurants and specialty grocery stores, Farrell said.

“We are a growing community and that is very exciting,” she said. “We are a very diverse community and have a lot to offer to different people."

Both departments are open to new ideas to revitalize its downtown district, she said. Interested individuals can simply reach out to Jackie Farrell through email at or call (402) 641-9176.

Blazing a trail in the brewing business

Gabby Ayala calls herself a "near Nebraskan."

She was born in Wisconsin, but her mom is a Nebraska native and the family moved here when she was 3 months old.

In her 35 years, she's been all over the state, growing up in the Sandhills, going to high school in Neligh, college in Hastings and then settling down in Lincoln.

It was while she was in college that she got her first exposure to craft beer.

Ayala said she and some friends used to go to Thunderhead Brewing Co. in Kearney, and that's where she acquired a passion for it.

"I've been a craft beer fan for a long time," she said.

So when she saw an advertisement last summer for the newly created position as executive director of the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild, she jumped at the opportunity to apply.

The job perfectly meshed her passion for craft beer and her experience in the nonprofit world, she said.

For 10 years, Ayala worked at Ten Thousand Villages, managing the local store for the organization that sells fair trade products.

She was hired in September at the Craft Brewers Guild and has hit the ground running.

In addition to her being the first-ever full-time paid executive director for the Guild, Ayala stands out in another respect.

"It's definitely an industry, especially on the brewing side, with very few women," Ayala said.

But it doesn't have to be, she said.

"Women definitely drink craft beer," Ayala said.

In fact, she said, most of her female friends are craft beer drinkers.

In a book club she belongs to, "We all drink craft beer together," she said. "We don't drink wine or cocktails."

According to the Brewers Association, women made up about a quarter of craft beer drinkers in 2016.

Representation in the craft beer industry is similar, with women making up about 29 percent of all brewery workers, according to a 2014 study from Auburn University.

However, only about 2-4 percent of brewery owners and founders are women, according to a Stanford University study.

There are few women in top positions at Nebraska-based breweries, but that hasn't stopped them from playing an outsized role at the Craft Brewers Guild. In addition to Ayala, the guild's president, Kim Kavulak, and lobbyist, Vanessa Silke, are women.

She said that though they have not been able to confirm it, they believe they are the only craft brewers group in the U.S. with an all-female leadership team.

"It should be noted that we are all very proud to be one of the only Guilds in the United States to be led by both a female president and a female executive director," Tom Wilmoth, one of the founders of Zipline Brewing in Lincoln, said in an email. "In a traditionally male-dominated industry, it is important for us to continue to promote diversity."

Wilmoth, who was involved in the hiring of Ayala, said she has done a great job as the group's executive director.

"Gabby is a great representative for all the brewers in Nebraska," he said.

In her short tenure as head of the organization, Ayala has substantially increased the number of associate members, which includes related businesses in the industry, Wilmoth said. She also will be launching a new “Enthusiast Member” group, which will allow individual fans of Nebraska’s growing beer scene to become members of the Guild and obtain special benefits.

She's also working with the Nebraska Tourism Commission to promote the craft beer industry both within and outside of Nebraska.

Her hope is to develop beer tourism not just in Omaha and Lincoln, but also in greater Nebraska as well.

"We have awesome beer here, high-quality beer, and we want to get on the map," she said.

Project S gives back

SCHUYLER –Project Schuyler was established by Schuyler Central High School to provide students the opportunity to give back to their community.

Project S began as an independent entity in 2011. The idea came about when students approached SCHS business teacher Jared Severson about their desire to improve the place they call home.

As he studied the project's potential, Severson said he soon noticed that most service projects focused on urban areas such as South Omaha and North Omaha.

“There was nothing that was broad that would help people in rural areas,” he said.

The project’s first focus was helping longtime Schuyler residents, those who have helped form the community over the years. The students helped to clean parks, volunteered for summer camps and organized fundraisers.

In the past, the students held a drive and gathered up to 13 boxes of clothing for victims of Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012.

“It has just been community service project after another,” Severson said. “It’s been evolving and growing.”

Project S has grown from its original 13 members to 50 students today.

One of the biggest projects the students was raising funds to renovate South Park. The students visited the Schuyler Chamber of  Commerce, and then got the Schuyler City Council’s approval. The city provided supplies for the park renovation.

The project then reached out to the Schuyler Sertoma Club, which is dedicated to providing support for community service activities. Sertoma members recognized the safety risks students face in community work and enrolled them the Serteen program. The program provides insurance to the students for their service work.

“I will always make sure the kids get the credit because it is theirs,” Severson said.

Project S leaders accept requests throughout the year. Along with getting work done, Project S members also pick up valuable life skills such as teamwork.

“I want the kids to be independent,” Severson said.

Severson said helping students prepare for college has been a major interest in his career. He came to SCHS after serving as a registrar at Brown Mackie College in Kentucky, where  he worked closely with the college’s counselors while he managed registrations and scholarships. He has been the SCHS business teacher for nine years.

Severson said he works closely with students to help them meet the qualifications necessary to get into college and succeed.

“It is still a big passion of mine to keep helping the kids,” Severson said.

Community service projects are a great way for students to stand out on college and scholarship applications.

“They need that extra community service so that they can stand out a little bit more for scholarships and it is also showing the colleges that this is their community,” he said. “You need to show pride in yourself and your community as well.”

breakingtop story
Judge places facilities in receivership

Nursing, assisted living centers in Columbus, Schuyler affected

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported late Friday that 21 nursing facilities and 10 assisted living facilities in 19 counties be placed in receivership for uninterrupted operation of the facilities.

The facilities are owned by Cottonwood Healthcare LLC, known as Skyline, which is headquartered in New Jersey.

The nursing and assisted living facilities of Columbus Care and Rehabilitation Center of Columbus and Schuyler Care and Rehabilitation Center, Schuyler were on the list of affected facilities.

DHHS was made aware Friday that Skyline was not able to meet its payroll. DHHS determined that receivership proceedings were necessary to protect the health and welfare of the residents of the nursing and assisted living facilities because Skyline was financially unable to pay staff and ensure the future care of the residents.

The receiverships were ordered after Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson filed court proceedings seeking receiverships at the request of Courtney Phillips, the Chief Executive Officer, of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The facilities, listed below, were placed in receivership with Klaasmeyer & Associates of Omaha, the appointed Receiver.

Klaasmeyer & Associates will oversee operations of the facilities as a new owner is identified and/or residents are relocated to another facility. DHHS will provide oversight throughout the process to ensure a safe and orderly transition and maintain the safety and well-being of residents. If needed, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides funds for the facility operations to ensure the safety and well-being of residents.

The following nursing facilities, all operated by Skyline, were placed in receivership:

• Broken Bow Care and Rehabilitation Center, Broken Bow, Custer County

• Cozad Care and Rehabilitation Center, Cozad, Dawson County

• Franklin Care and Rehabilitation Center, Franklin, Franklin County

• Fullerton Care and Rehabilitation Center, Fullerton, Nance County

• Hartington Care and Rehabilitation Center, Hartington, Cedar County

• Lakeview Care and Rehabilitation Center, Grand Island, Hall County

• Nebraska City Care and Rehabilitation Center, Nebraska City, Otoe County

• Neligh Care and Rehabilitation Center, Neligh, Antelope County

• Norfolk Care and Rehabilitation Center, Norfolk, Madison County

• Omaha Metro Care and Rehabilitation Center, Omaha, Douglas County

• O’Neill Care and Rehabilitation Center, O’Neill, Holt County

• Park Place Care and Rehabilitation Center, Grand Island, Hall County

• Plattsmouth Care and Rehabilitation Center, Plattsmouth, Cass County

• Scottsbluff Care and Rehabilitation Center, Scottsbluff, Scotts Bluff County

• Sidney Care and Rehabilitation Center, Sidney, Cheyenne County

• Sorensen Care and Rehabilitation Center, Omaha, Douglas County

• Tekameh Care and Rehabilitation Center, Tekamah, Burt County

• Valhaven Care and Rehabilitation Center, Valley, Douglas County

• Wausa Care and Rehabilitation Center, Wausa, Knox County

The following assisted living, all operated by Skyline, were placed in receivership:

• Cozad Care and Rehabilitation Center, Cozad, Dawson County

• Franklin Care and Rehabilitation Center, Franklin, Franklin County

• Fullerton Care and Rehabilitation Center, Fullerton, Nance County

• Hartington Care and Rehabilitation Center, Hartington, Cedar County

• Nebraska City Care and Rehabilitation Center, Nebraska City, Otoe County

• Norfolk Care and Rehabilitation Center, Norfolk, Madison County

• Scottsbluff Care and Rehabilitation Center, Scottsbluff, Scotts Bluff County

• Sidney Care and Rehabilitation Center, Sidney, Cheyenne County