A long-time fan of the Center for Rural Affairs’ work, Patty Plugge has been an enthusiastic voice in rural matters well before actually partnering with the organization.
And, because of her commitment to helping others in her position as Burt County economic development director, the Center has chosen Patty to receive its 2019 Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Friend Award.
The REAP Friend Award is presented annually to an individual, organization, or institution that provides invaluable service to entrepreneurs by assisting REAP staff in offering technical assistance, business training, loans, and networking across rural Nebraska.
“I knew about the Center way back when I was working in Washington County,” said Patty. “When I started working in Burt County, I was excited to be able to access REAP and all that the Center offers.”
Since then, Patty has taken full advantage of the Center’s services to best benefit business owners in the county.
“I have referred quite a number of entrepreneurs to REAP, for help in developing a business plan and for financing,” she said. “They have specialists who can help, especially with the business planning, which is usually a ‘make or break’ for those wanting to start a business. They can then go directly to assisting with the financing—it’s a one-stop shop.”
The collaboration between the Center and Burt County has been successful, offering a variety of programs for entrepreneurs to explore, including monthly Coffee Table meetings for Burt and Cuming counties. This participant-driven program offers the opportunity to network with other small business owners, as well as bring in speakers on topics of their choosing.
“Patty is a wonderful wealth for promoting REAP and helping Center staff develop a network in Burt County,” said Lori Schrader, northeast Nebraska loan specialist at the Center for Rural Affairs. “Patty has also reached out to me several times to be a speaker for Burt County leadership classes. She is always open to bringing in the Center’s classroom trainings.”
In the coming years, Patty hopes to expand the relationship with the Center and REAP.
“REAP’s higher loan limit will allow me to direct more of our larger projects for assistance,” she said. ”I have also been approached to consider ways that we can partner with the Center on housing in Burt County, as lack of housing can be a real issue for business growth.”
While some of the joint programs are relatively new, Patty says she is excited to continue working with the Center to see where things go. Her hope is to help make these opportunities available throughout her county and beyond.
“I am honored to have had the chance to work closely with REAP,” said Patty. “I know the struggles that rural communities are up against. Hopefully my efforts in this area can make a difference.”