For our August Member Spotlight we talked to Mike Rooks, Director of Washington County Economic Development for the Gateway Development Corporation.
The Gateway Development Corporation is a nonprofit investor based organization that is a cooperative partnership between the county’s public and private sectors focusing on business development services.
Tell us about Gateway Development Corporation.
Founded in 1989, Gateway Development Corporation was organized to help Washington County, Nebraska grow through recruitment and business development of commercial and industrial enterprises in the Greater Omaha Metro. Gateway is a nonprofit investor-based organization that is a cooperative partnership between the county’s public and private sectors focusing on business development services. Over the last several years Gateway has helped bring in over $500 million in capital investment and over 700 jobs.
In what ways does Gateway support the growth of business and industry in Washington County?
I like to think of Gateway as Washington County’s Networking HUB. We connect the proper people together to stimulate growth. We think outside of the box; if a business or company wants to grow or build in Washington County we will find a way to make it happen.
What are ways that you work to recruit and retain workers and residents to Washington County?
Again, it is thinking outside of the box. We are partnering with many different organizations including Heartland Workforce Solution, Metro Community College, Iowa Western Community College and the Greater Omaha Chamber to help bring new workers into the county. We are also working with all of the school systems to help teach and train youth on what jobs are available in their backyard.
A big issue we are currently having, like the rest of the Midwest, is not enough housing. We are trying to find ways to bring in more housing units, as we are about 500 units short based off of a housing study we did in 2021.
What are Washington County’s biggest industries?
The Cargill bio campus would be the largest industry by far. This comprises of Cargill, Novozymes, NatureWorks, Evonik, Corbion, Veramaris, and Avansya.
Pretty soon we will be pretty strong in warehouse distribution with the new Dollar General distribution center opening at the end of 2022.
What is the impact of those industries on the country, the state, and beyond?
It is really amazing all of the different products that come from the bio campus. We could write a book on everything happening. Cargill does an amazing job in extracting everything they can from a kernel of corn. The most recent news is the Novozymes expansion. Here is a quote from their press release:
“With the investment in a new state of the art production line in Blair, Nebraska, Novozymes takes a significant step forward in enabling sustainable nutrition for the world. The company is strengthening its commitment to serving the alternative protein market, marking an important milestone in Novozymes’ strategy, Better Business with Biology.”
What do you see as being growth opportunities for the county?
I have a feeling the bio campus in not done growing yet, however the city and county need to complete several infrastructure projects to see continued growth. We also have roughly 200 acres south of the new Dollar General distribution center, and next to the upcoming bypass I can see as a huge growth corridor for Washington County. The pandemic has showed us companies need to be closer to their product and customers, and I think that bodes well for Washington County.