One Nebraska Community’s “Against the Grain” Development
Stratton, Nebraska – Terry and Chrissy Latta have built a growing, successful business where some might have told them not to bother. Stratton, Nebraska, population 423, is situated in the Southwest corner of Nebraska, 33 miles West of McCook and about 80 miles South of Interstate 80. The Lattas have demonstrated that there is economic opportunity in rural Nebraska communities, if you know where, and how, to look.
“We believed that starting this business in Stratton made sense, not just because we were confident that an auto body shop was needed, but because the community was supportive and the local bank was doing what they could do. Phil Menke, with REAP and the Center for Rural Affairs, went above and beyond the call of duty in helping us start the business. REAP and others around here recognized that starting a small business like this is real economic development for Stratton,” said Terry Latta.
In 2002 the Lattas established Final Touch Auto Body in Stratton. The business start-up was assisted by a joint effort between the Rural Enterprise Assistance Program (REAP, a program of the Center for Rural Affairs), the McCook National Bank of Stratton, and Southwest Nebraska Community Betterment Corporation. Since that time, the business has had seen steady growth.
Start-up loans were provided by REAP, Southwest Nebraska Community Betterment Corporation and McCook National Bank. And additionally, the Lattas availed themselves of technical assistance provided by REAP Business Specialist Phil Menke in starting the business. REAP loans and technical assistance for this and other similar projects are funded by Community Development Block Grant assistance through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development as well as funding from the Nebraska Microenterprise Development Act and the Small Business Administration Microloan program among others.
“Terry and Chrissy worked with us from the outset. REAP was able to provide technical assistance and a start-up loan in conjunction with McCook National Bank,” said Menke. “We were all fortunate that the community, the bank and the Community Betterment Corporation know the importance of small business and microenterprise in rural economic development.”
The Center for Rural Affairs has found that in the most rural farm-dependent counties the majority of new job creation results from non-farm proprietorships – people creating their own job by starting a small business. Small business entrepreneurship is the one development strategy that consistently works in rural communities.
“Stratton has benefited from the services provided by Final Touch Auto Body and has also benefited from the economic impact of locating this business here,” said Rich Bernt with McCook National Bank of Stratton. “Our bank is willing to do whatever we can and take more risk on small business start-ups because this is our community too, we are invested in the community, we live here, and we depend on and work for the success of Stratton.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.
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