Neligh’s focus on economic development may just be paying off with the addition of a large new retail business.
Although nothing is official, Economic Development Director Greg Ptacek confirmed he has been working with “a large retailer” for several months who is very interested in expanding to Antelope County.
“We are very much in preliminary stages,” Ptacek said. “It’s not unusual for us to have multiple requests for information for retail sites or for real estate. Our office is working on several potential expansions and additions to the community that would be of great economic benefit.”
Ptacek said he could not state the name of the major retailer showing interest in Neligh due to a confidentiality agreement.
An individual close to the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the unnamed retailer who visited Neligh this week is Shopko Hometown.
According to its website, Shopko Hometown locations are a smaller concept store developed to meet the needs of smaller communities. There are 179 Shokpo Hometown locations, including one in O'Neill.
Shopko Stores Operating Co., LLC is a $3 billion retailer that operates over 323 stores in 21 states throughout the Midwest, Mountain, North Central and Pacific Northwest regions.
Ptacek called the unnamed potential retailer exciting for Neligh for several reasons.
“Obviously, if this business comes to Neligh, it would create a lot of new job opportunities,” he said. “But what’s just as exciting is that it would play a signifiant role in keeping millions of dollars in Antelope County. This is Antelope County money that is currently being spent elsewhere because many of the products aren’t available locally.”
Ptacek said the “shoe” effect happens often, as well. He described that as someone going to Norfolk to buy a pair of Nikes. While there, they shop at another store, eat a meal, buy groceries and fill their gas tank.
“They went to another community for Nikes but ended up spending hundreds of dollars out of convenience. That’s hundreds of dollars that could have been spent locally,” he said.
According to the State Department of Economic Development, over $17.6 million leaves Antelope County annually in categories that Shopko Hometown has market in.
“If you can stop even a third of that leakage, that’s going to trickle down to other retail businesses and help stop other leaks,” he said. “The job potential is great, but that’s not the only factor. Keeping that money in Antelope County - in Neligh - is huge.”
Shopko Hometown offers many items that are not currently available in Neligh, such as small appliances, electronics and name-brand athletic shoes, just to name a few items.
Not every Shopko Hometown offers the same services, though. Some have pharmacies and optical services while others do not. The services and items appear to depend on the needs of the community.
“I can’t specify what products this potential retailer offers, nor can I confirm who the retailer is,” Ptacek said. “I will say that several potential projects are in development right now in Neligh, and this is what the founders of the Grow Neligh group worked so hard to begin several years ago when they passed LB 840 by a 9-1 vote. Neligh wants economic growth, and the community is in a great position to grow."