REAP finds a friend in Holt County

Rhea Landholm contributed to this blog.

Business owners in O’Neill, Nebraska, are lucky to have Darby Paxton working on their side.

Since 2016, Darby has served as the Holt County Economic Development director, and in that time he’s provided entrepreneurs in the area with countless opportunities for business growth. Darby says he’s gotten invaluable guidance and assistance through the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP).

“I first heard of REAP through Gene Rahn, who reached out to me as soon as I became the director, and educated me on the many ways that REAP has been helping businesses locally,” Darby said. “Our focus at Holt County Economic Development is to grow our county's population using local incentives to either attract or expand our businesses, and REAP has helped with that.”

That simple introduction has led to Holt County Economic Development and REAP partnering on numerous workshops in different communities, such as QuickBooks trainings and online marketing sessions.

Because of Darby’s invaluable service to entrepreneurs by assisting REAP staff in offering technical assistance, business training, loans, and networking, he was selected to receive the REAP 2018 Friend Award.

“Darby brings a great deal of passion and desire to aid and serve the residents of all communities in Holt County,” said Gene Rahn, senior loan specialist with the Center for Rural Affairs. “His reach and desire to serve includes participating and working with regional and statewide groups reaching beyond just Holt County.”

To Darby, receiving this award is a great achievement.

“Being recognized by REAP as a friend of the program is truly my honor,” he said. “Our goal of assisting local businesses is made easier by allowing REAP to come in and educate them with small business concerns. This award proves that great partnerships can produce some fantastic results when helping others.”

Darby plans to continue taking full advantage of all REAP has to offer.

“REAP has been an excellent partner in teaching our businesses and assisting them with loans in Holt County for many years,” Darby said. “They make it easy for our small businesses to appeal to a much bigger market simply by sending an expert to keep them educated on new business tactics. As long as REAP is willing to continue to assist the businesses in Holt County, this partnership is never-ending.”

Luckily for Holt County entrepreneurs, the feeling is mutual for those working the REAP program.

“When there is a need, Darby refers potential clients to REAP,” Gene said. “The office has and continues to operate at a high level of expertise and service. Everything combined is what makes Darby a true friend of the REAP program.”

Darby grew up on a ranch near Stuart, Nebraska, and moved back to the area with his wife in 2005. He served as a stay-at-home dad to five boys for 11 years before taking on the role of economic development director. In those 11 years, he was involved in the fire department, becoming an emergency medical technician; was a member of the Housing Rehabilitation Board; helped bring a movie theater to Stuart; and served on his church’s parish council.

Feature photo: Darby Paxton receives the REAP 2018 Friend Award from Lori Schrader, loan specialist, in O’Neill in late March. Darby was to be honored during an award ceremony on March 8 in York, which was cancelled due to inclement weather.