North O’s journey to revitalization
February 1st, 2011
Omaha, NE – It’s been five years since the Greater Omaha Chamber’s North Omaha Development Project kicked off, with the stated goal of stimulating economic rebirth in North Omaha. Last week, about 120 people attended a public meeting for an update on the Project. Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray referred to the newly purchased Malcolm X Foundation building in his district.
“We have a destination center that is in Omaha thatâ€™s in the making,” he said. “I believe very strongly that once we get that done itâ€™s going to be one of the models for the nation.”
The North Omaha Development Project has been an advocate for the Malcolm X Foundation.
Gray told the crowd, “If we continue to work together with our elected officials we know itâ€™s an unprecedented time for us. There are people who still want to believe that somehow North Omaha is something other than a place to live, a place to grow our families and a place to work. But, we know different. We know better.”
Gray, along with several other city and state officials attended a meeting outlining the NODPâ€™s accomplishments for the past year and goals for next. Since 2008, the NODP has brought investment of more than $36 million to North Omaha by courting companies to the area like a new Aldi grocery store and several financial institutions. Ed Cochran, executive director of the NODP, said last year, his group created or saved a total of 193 jobs in the area. There are more on the way, he said, but he emphasized they are “potential” opportunities.
“So nobody call me next week and say Ed where are those jobs? These are deals and thatâ€™s what happens, we work through them and frankly, we win some lose some.”
Cochran did not want to commit to any firm number on how many jobs he hopes to bring to the area this year. However, Preston Love Jr., the Executive Director of the North Omaha Contractors Alliance said he hopes future plans include hiring local contractors to work on the projects.
“As we move into 2011, my executive director which is me, and my contractors are going to take a harder stand on economic development projects and the involvement we have with them. We want North Omaha to develop, but we donâ€™t want to watch it grow,” he said. “Weâ€™re enthusiastic about it but weâ€™re not going to be happy campers if the development takes place without us.”
Moving forward Cochran said NODP will continue to partner with community groups and focus on new projects. But, he said, revitalizing North Omaha will not be an overnight transformation.
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