ASHLAND – During their recent quarterly meeting, the Ashland Area Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC) announced the hiring of an intern they hope will become executive director.

Nishesh Yadav, an economics student at Doane College in Crete, was hired June 17 on a six-month contract as an intern for the AAEDC. Yadav was one of four candidates interviewed for the job, according to AAEDC President Brad Jacobsen.

“I think he will do great,” said Jacobsen.

The announcement was made during the AAEDC quarterly meeting held at the HelpSystems office, located in the historic Hoffman building, on June 26. Sixteen AAEDC board members and regular members attended the meeting. Yadav was not present due to a previously-scheduled commitment, Jacobsen said.

AAEDC member Chuck Niemeyer assisted with the interviews and was also impressed by Yadav.

“He handled the interview extremely well,” said Niemeyer.

The Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD) assisted with the interviews as well and will help train Yadav. SENDD provides economic development solutions for the 15 counties in its district.

Tom Bliss, SENDD executive director, said Yadav has a lot of confidence.

“I’m excited to get Nishesh out here in Ashland,” Bliss said. “I think you guys will be really impressed with him.”

During Yadav’s first month on the job, he will visit with the economic development team at OPPD to identify what kind of support they can provide, Bliss said. AAEDC board member Tim O’Brien is director of economic development and external relations for OPPD.

Yadav will also visit with economic development directors in Seward, Gage and Otoe counties to see what their average day is like and pick their brains, Bliss said.

“We’re going to figure out the best way to approach Ashland,” he added.

Also on Yadav’s schedule in the first month is to begin Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) visits with local businesses. The BRE visits will help identify the needs of employers in Ashland and ways to improve the business climate, grow the workforce and keep businesses open, Bliss explained. Bliss said they will ask AAEDC board member to assist Yadav with the BRE visits.

AAEDC board members include O’Brien, who was reelected during the annual meeting in February, and Nolan Welch, who was elected for the first time during the annual meeting. The rest of the board is made up of Jacobsen (Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools representative), Paul Gossin (Ashland City Council representative) and Brad Carlson (Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce representative). Rod Reisen and Rob Bundy are at-large board members.

“I think your membership needs to see the board present,” Bliss told those present for the quarterly meeting. “It also gives Nishesh credibility.”

The first month will also include determining the AAEDC’s annual budget. That will help govern how much the corporation can spend to develop a website, another priority identified by SENDD for the AAEDC.

A look at the six-month schedule set for Yadav includes working on an inventory of existing commercial properties and potential development sites and researching incentives for housing and commercial development to start out with, Bliss said.

Other tasks in the next six months include completing the Nebraska Department of Economic Development Leadership Certification application, preparing request for proposals for website design and conducting a planning/alignment meeting with the AAEDC board and key stakeholders.

At the AAEDC’s annual meeting last February, the organization announced it would be seeking a full-time executive director. When the AAEDC was formed in 2015, Lenora Isom was appointed executive director. Isom was employed by both the AAEDC and the City of Ashland. She worked 20 percent of the time for the AAEDC, and the rest of her time was spent as the building official/zoning inspector for the city.

The Ashland City Council paid for Isom’s executive director salary as a monetary donation to the AAEDC.

Last year, the AAEDC board determined that a full-time executive director was necessary.

Bliss said they are working on a state grant that would pay up to 50 percent of

Yadav’s salary.

“That’ll save you guys some money,” he said.

Also during the quarterly meeting, Thomas Judds updated the membership on the status of the affordable housing units he and a partner are building in Ashland. Judds and his partner, Rob Woodling, of Ashland Affordable Housing Partners, are building three four-plexes at 24th and Euclid streets.

Judds said the project was awarded a HOME Funds grant from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA) and the state Department of Economic Development to build the four-bedroom units, which will have 1,600 square feet of living space. The AAEDC was the sponsoring agent on the grant application.

As of last week, all three foundations have been poured and framing is in progress on two of the buildings, Judds reported. They expect the first unit to be completed by Oct. 1, the second will be done around Nov. 1 and the third should be finished by the end of December, he said.

Nine of the units will be rented as “affordable,” with reduced rent for renters that meet income qualifications, Judds said. The other three units will be market rate, he added.

Interest is high in the units, Judds told the AAEDC. A waiting list has already been started and applications will be accepted soon.

“I’ve had eight families already contact me and we haven’t even started advertising,” he said.

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