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A centerpiece of my run for office is to promote a Thriving Rural Communities initiative. I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the 2019 Nebraska Thriving Communities conference in Kearney in which more than 92 Nebraska communities participated.

My initiative focuses on not only keeping Nebraska communities alive but thriving as vibrant hubs for meaningful activity and commerce—schools, businesses, celebrations, and religious observances—with opportunities for current and future generations.

In District 23, I have had the privilege to see examples of thriving: Val Days with a giant cruise; David City and Ashland with their arts focus; Dwight with its great protection for every person; Schuyler and others with food pantries and childcare materials distributions; many communities where people have made an effort to do Tuesday takeout to support their local restaurants, and otherwise support local businesses.

This is a good time to focus on smaller communities. Due to COVID, more people are moving into or working remotely in our small communities. COVID has made apparent community needs and has enabled new or strengthened partnerships.

Under my Initiative, towns would offer proposals for seed funds and consultation to help maximize opportunities for broadband, health care, childcare, business expansion, and whatever else community partners identify as needed next steps.

Thriving Communities maps well onto Blueprint Nebraska, offers a vision for growing, inclusive communities, a growing labor force, a clearer throughline from education to the labor force. The Economic Development Certified Community (EDCC) Program certifies communities that display economic development preparedness and a desire for growth; the Nebraska Communities Foundation supports community foundations; Nebraska Children establishes Communities for Kids, and the Nebraska Thriving Index can help measure progress.

Thriving Communities would provide leadership for D23 to capitalize on the opportunities that exist today and go to the next level.

Helen Raikes, Candidate for D23 Legislature


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