For the past 14 years, Tina Biteghe Bi Ndong has witnessed the work the Center for Rural Affairs has done with the West Point, Nebraska, community. As the executive director of the West Point Chamber of Commerce, she has seen the relationship between the two organizations blossom over the years and become an integral part of that partnership.
Tina has supported entrepreneurs and given back to her community to such an extent that the Center has chosen her as the recipient of its 2019 Extra Mile Award.
The Extra Mile Award is presented annually to an individual or organization that demonstrates outstanding support to the Center and exceptional dedication to small business development in rural Nebraska.
“The Center has been a resource and advocate for business since I began working at the West Point Chamber of Commerce,” Tina said. “Over the years, we have been fortunate to partner with them to serve our members and area businesses, and more recently, we have grown that partnership to assist with community projects and programs.”
Some of those projects and programs include meeting with potential and existing business owners by offering local office hours every month, providing training to area individuals, and facilitating networking opportunities through monthly Coffee Table conversations.
“I began working with Tina a little over a year ago, and she has helped us develop our network,” said Lori Schrader, loan specialist at the Center for Rural Affairs. “She continues to reach out to us whenever she has a new person wanting to start their business. Tina has a true passion for growing rural Nebraska.”
The award recipient looks forward to continuing their joint efforts by creating a community garden, among other projects.
“It is important to cultivate an environment where businesses thrive and individuals feel welcome,” said Tina. “I believe the Center plays an important role to achieve that by not only offering financing for small businesses, but also by their education and collaboration efforts.”
Sandra Renner, Farm and Community director at the Center and resident of West Point, feels Tina is more than deserving of receiving the 2019 Extra Mile Award. In addition to small business work, Center staff work alongside Tina on community inclusion efforts, local foods promotion and marketing, and English as a second language (ESL) classes.
“She truly is a leader who believes in serving her community and seeking out opportunities to identify those who aren't being served in ways that could be more beneficial,” said Sandra. “In Tina’s work with our staff focused on rural community inclusion, she has gone above and beyond supporting efforts in the early stage business development work with Latinos, as well as connected our staff to opportunities to further inclusion efforts.”
Tina acknowledges that she couldn’t do the work alone, and is grateful for the help.
“This work takes people willing to take risks,” she said. “It takes a regulatory environment that creates order and provides safety without being so restrictive that providing a service or delivering a product to market becomes financially or logistically impossible. It takes funding. It takes connections. It takes so much more. I am humbled to receive this award knowing the work that people in my position do each day plays only a small part in the prosperity of our communities.”
Feature photo: Tina Biteghe Bi Ndong (far right) celebrates a ribbon cutting with a West Point business. | Photo submitted