KEARNEY – Kearney Visitors Bureau is receiving roughly $420,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds from Buffalo County.
The funding request from KVB was unanimously approved by Buffalo County Commissioners on Jan. 10.
Commissioners approved the ARPA fund request to help “pay for lost lodging revenues and update area welcome signage, both of which that have suffered from the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” per Resolution 2023-02.
The support is needed, KVB Executive Director Roger Jasnoch told Kearney Hub.
“Using 2018-2019 as ground zero, going forward for the next two years, 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, from our 2018-19 base, we lost $686,200,” said Jasnoch. “Because it was available, we asked them to consider our application.”
KVB had initially asked for $700,000.
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“They came back and said, that’s good, but we can only do four,” said Jasnoch.
The funds will go toward six projects.
The first project is new “Welcome to Kearney” signs.
The original wood-post signs with yellow lettering were put up 20 years ago.
“When they were put up, they looked attractive,” said Jasnoch. “The sign that was by Holiday Inn on South Second Avenue blew down last fall, so there isn’t even a sign there now.”
This is expected to cost roughly $100,000.
Funds will also be used for signage at the Welcome Center of the forthcoming Indoor Sports Complex, which is being done in partnership with the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce and Buffalo County Economic Development Council.
“Our vision for that is to have the Welcome Center as part of that building be an attraction in itself,” said Jasnoch. “It would help tell our story.”
This is also expected to cost roughly $100,000.
Kearney serves as a “convention center,” said Jasnoch.
“We became even more of a leisure travel market just in the last couple of years,” he said. “Since COVID, we weren’t getting the conventions we had been. That’s where our loss came from.”
With that market blossoming again, $50,000 will be invested toward attracting visitors, and another $50,000 in sports marketing.
“Certainly once the enclosed fieldhouse gets legs and gets built, we’ll be working in concert with the city to bring groups in and those groups,” said Jasnoch.
Another $50,000 will to go convention marketing, as that area is also making a post-pandemic comeback.
Kearney area’s sandhill cranes will also receive ARPA support, with $25,000 going to Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon and $25,000 to Fort Kearney State Historical Park “to help promote the sandhill crane migration.”
Last, KVB plans to invest $20,000 in website development as new attractions come to the city and surrounding area and new projects, such as the sports complex, are completed.
ARPA was signed into law in March 2021 to provide “federal funding relief for American workers, families, industries and state and local governments” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds are provided to “charitable and nonprofit entities to make necessary investments in structures and infrastructure.”
For more information about KVB services and local attractions, go to visitkearney.org.