Eric Maher, Governor’s Office, 402-471-1974
Kate Ellingson, Economic Development, 402-471-3749
Governor Ricketts, along with the Ruiz family and local community leaders, cuts the ribbon on Wakefield’s first house constructed with the help of Nebraska Rural Workforce Housing funding.
WAKEFIELD – On Thursday, Governor Pete Ricketts visited the city of Wakefield to cut the ribbon on one of the earliest projects to be completed under Nebraska’s Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act (LB518).
“The Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act is helping our Nebraska families like the Ruiz family of Wakefield. This grows our workforce and helps companies like Michael Foods to attract and retain talent,” said Governor Ricketts. “Congratulations to the city of Wakefield on being one of the first communities to complete a project in Nebraska using funding provided with LB518.”
Signed into law in April 2017, LB518 created a new program to help Nebraska’s rural communities address local workforce housing needs. The Act channeled approximately $7 million from the Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund into a new fund — the Rural Workforce Housing Fund (RWHF). The RWHF, in turn, supplies dollars to regional rural workforce housing investment funds. These funds finance affordable housing development projects in counties having a population of less than 100,000.
“Investing in housing to grow our rural workforce is an investment in Nebraska’s future,” said Senator Joni Albrecht, whose legislative District 17 includes the city of Wakefield. “Housing is an important priority for rural Nebraska, and an opportunity to create stronger communities better equipped to support economic growth. Wakefield's development is one of many projects that will be completed thanks to the help of LB518.”
As Chair of the Business and Labor Committee, Senator Albrecht prioritized LB518, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Ricketts two years ago.
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED), tasked with administering the housing program, competitively awarded RWHF dollars in March of last year. Available funding was distributed to 14 nonprofit development organizations throughout the state.
Wayne Community Housing Development Corporation (WCHDC) was selected to receive $639,000 under the Act, which was matched by $1 million from local partners and the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority. Michael Foods and Enel Green Power North America, present at the ribbon cutting, were the two largest business donors of project matching funds. The funds are being utilized for the construction and rehabilitation of residential units in the cities of Wayne and Wakefield.
Wakefield’s “Project Home Plate,” which involved the construction of a new home on a local in-fill lot, was the first project in Wakefield to be completed using funding from the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act. Wakefield Mayor Paul Eaton, WCHDC Executive Director Meagan Weaver, Michael Foods Operations Manager Brady Weaver, and Enel Community Relations Manager Chris Hardy helped Governor Ricketts cut the ribbon.
"Over the past six years, the community of Wakefield has seen a growing need for housing,” said Megan Weaver. “With companies like Michael Foods expanding in Wakefield and Enel Green Power North America establishing operations in rural Dixon County, it was imperative that we do something to create new housing stock in the community. The Rural Workforce Housing Fund has been the catalyst for four new home builds in Wakefield, with the first completed home being Project Home Plate."
“The Rural Workforce Housing Grant has been a tremendous asset for both Michael Foods and the larger Wakefield community as a whole,” said Brady Weaver. “Having affordable housing is a challenge in many smaller communities. This grant helps support the growth of these communities by making it possible to live where you work. We would like to thank Governor Ricketts, the Legislature and the all the contributors to this project for their support.”
“Enel Green Power is committed to supporting and becoming a part of each community in which we operate,” said Chris Hardy. “As the owner and operator of the nearby Rattlesnake Creek wind farm in Dixon County, we applaud Governor Ricketts for addressing the critical issue of rural workforce housing in Nebraska, and we’re proud to support the efforts of the Wayne Community Housing Development Corporation to develop affordable housing within the local community.”