Local industry has once again put Columbus in the spotlight, as the city was recently ranked No. 2 overall on a new “Best Cities To Live In Nebraska” online report.
Published by ChamberofCommerce.org, which touts itself as a “go-to digital resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs (by) providing guidance they need to start and run successful businesses,” Columbus came in No. 2 behind only Papillion.
Columbus is praised in the published list for its size and the hotbed of manufacturing centers it features.
“Columbus is a pleasant city in Platte County with a strong economy for a city its size, bolstered by the presence of many manufacturing centers, including those by Cargill, Vishay Intertechnology, and Archer Daniels Midland,” the list states.
Jeanne Schieffer, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged she wasn’t sure of what to make of the list when she first came across it as the online organization has no affiliation to the local chamber. But, she said after corresponding with Rob Lora, ChamberofCommerce.org’s media outreach manager, she feels good about it and what the list represents.
“They called us a pleasant city, which I think is a nice credit to our community, definitely. They pointed out specific companies they found noteworthy, and I’m very proud of that,” Schieffer said. “It means there are good jobs here. We’re always trying to fill more good jobs and we’re complementing those with more good housing. Look at our education system and our hospital, there is so much here that makes it a very good community.”
Top-spot Papillion was described as the No. 1 selection for a few reasons:
"Named after the creek that runs through the middle of the city (the French word for butterfly), Papillion residents enjoy a higher than average median household income, and many pristine public parks.”
After Columbus came Omaha (3), Kearney (4), North Platte (5), Bellevue (6), Hastings (7), Norfolk (8), Fremont (9), Grand Island (10) and Lincoln (11).
“I think it’s 100-percent correct; we probably should have been first. I’m surprised we’re not No. 1,” Columbus City Council President Charlie Bahr said. “But all those places on there are good places, so we’re in good company.”
Bahr praised residents, citing how everyone came together and helped strangers after March’s historic flooding as an example of what makes the community special.
“The people we have – I can’t point out any area of Columbus I wouldn’t be proud to live and work in,” he said.
The list itself was created using data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control, and the results of the metrics were weighted equally by the company’s research team, Lora told The Telegram via email.
He said it was compiled based on five main factors and eight sub-factors that fall within those. Those include employment (number of establishments, median earnings); housing (owner-occupied housing with a mortgage, monthly housing costs); quality of life (work commute, poverty levels); education (percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher); and health (obesity ratios).
“Unfortunately, no one from our team has visited Columbus in relation to this study,” Lora said.
That hasn't hindered the list's popularity. Several area residents and businesses, as well as the local school district, shared social media posts about Columbus' high ranking on it earlier in the week.
Schieffer said though many online lists are published annually, this particular one seems to highlight small business and encourages entrepreneurship. Ultimately, she said, she hopes someone might come across the list and strongly consider doing business in Columbus as opposed to someplace else.
“I think it means we have a strong work ethic,” Schieffer said. “And another small business starting up could be a great opportunity.”
Bahr had a similar perspective, calling manufacturing the backbone of Columbus.
“Industry is great. We attract some good businesses and some good employees. Our workforce is excellent,” he said, noting the city's historically low unemployment. “We’ve been attracting some good builders and have a lot of new construction going on, more than we maybe ever have had. Just look at the quality of life here.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com