For more than a decade, the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, in Columbus, Nebraska, have enjoyed a productive partnership.
Various staff members have taken the reins on projects throughout the Latino community. Most recently, Chamber officers Jeanne Schieffer, president, and Sandie Fischer, events planner and entrepreneur/membership developer, have worked diligently to make sure these projects and events have encouraged Latino entrepreneurs to start and expand their businesses in Columbus.
Due to their outstanding commitment to the Latino community, the Center for Rural Affairs has chosen them to receive its 2019 REAP Latino Business Center Partner Award.
The REAP Latino Business Center Partner Award is presented annually to an individual or organization that has demonstrated outstanding support for the REAP Latino Business Center and exceptional dedication to small business development in rural Nebraska.
“The Chamber has incorporated the importance of involving the Latino community in our program of work,” said Sandie. “We host monthly breakfasts for the Latino community to be involved in the Chamber and also share their business ventures with us.”
Representatives from other organizations work with Sandie, Jeanne, and the rest of the Chamber to unite workers and residents in their community.
“I was familiar with the Center for Rural Affairs in my previous career, but learning more about the work REAP does made me better appreciate what ties us together: a mutual goal to advance business and build communities that benefit everyone,” Jeanne said.
The Chamber supports Latino businesses and encourages them to participate in different community events, in addition to connecting Center staff with Latino businesses and community leaders in Columbus.
“Jeanne and Sandie have referred several clients to the Center in the past, and are always open to working with the Latino community,” said Veronica Spindola, Latino loan specialist with the Center for Rural Affairs. “Every time I turn to them and ask for something, I can be sure that ‘yes’ will be the answer.”
There are plans to continue and expand this partnership in the years to come.
“The growth of our Columbus community is dependent upon relationships of mutual respect, support and engagement—which means having positive relationships and partners,” said Jeanne. “The Chamber wants to be a good partner with organizations that share our same values and goals. That’s why receiving this award means so much. We are working for the same area, the same stakeholders, and, ultimately, the same quality of life for our residents and workforce. That’s what makes partnering with them on initiatives all the more meaningful.”
And, though Jeanne and Sandie feel humbled and grateful to receive this award, they acknowledge that the relationship the Chamber has built with the Center has greatly benefited their endeavors to assist the Columbus community.
“The Chamber is honored to be the recipient of the award, but at the same time we are thankful for the assistance REAP provides our communities and entrepreneurs to become successful businesses that make Columbus and our surrounding communities so successful,” said Sandie. “We believe entrepreneurs are the backbone of every community, and we need them to continue to grow in our area. It is with the assistance from REAP that we are able to direct individuals to live their dreams.”
“It means a lot to receive this award because we know the importance and magnitude of REAP’s work in the state and area,” said Jeanne. “To be recognized as having a small part in the Center’s success is truly rewarding.”
Feature photo: Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce officers Sandie Fischer, events planner and entrepreneur/membership developer, and Jeanne Schieffer, president, were presented the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project Latino Business Center Partner Award. | Photo submitted