Greater Norfolk Economic Development Foundation
Greater Norfolk Economic Development Foundation (GNEDF)
A history of economic development efforts in Norfolk, Nebraska
In the late 1950s, business and civic leaders in Norfolk came together to form a group to aggressively pursue economic development efforts for this area. The group called themselves the Norfolk Action Council.
Among the founding members were businessmen Ralph Reeves, Jerry Huse, Dave Powell, Bernard “Mike” Delay, school superintendent Dr. Allen Burkhardt, George Dudley, Morris Patton, Arnold Robinson, Emil Reutzel Jr., and Roy Robertson, as well as numerous other community leaders. These leaders were among those who counseled and assisted Warren Cook, who served as mayor of Norfolk from 1957 to 1963.
From the Action Council, a group called Norpark was formed with the intent to invest private dollars in order to cultivate economic development opportunities through the buying and selling of land. The Norpark group eventually adopted the name, the Greater Norfolk Economic Development Foundation (GNEDF) that is used to this day.
The group initially sold $1,000 shares to raise money to purchase a parcel of land along Highway 275 in eastern Norfolk. The “Norpark” site was the first of many parcels the group acquired to attract economic development opportunities to the area.
In the 1960s, the group learned of a medical manufacturing company in Florida interested in expanding. The group sent Mayor Cook and businessman Dave Powell to Deland, Florida, to meet with the president of Roehr Products. The mayor brought a piece of a golf green and presented it to the president of the company saying, “I just wanted to prove to you that we play golf up north, and I want to show you what we can do for your employees.”
Roehr responded with, “If you’ve got enough guts to do that, we’ve got enough guts to come look.” The company decided to establish a presence in Norfolk and went on to become famous as the pioneer of plastic hypodermic syringes. Roehr Products now exists as Cardinal Health and is still a strong employer in Norfolk.
The group also sent a delegation to North Carolina in the 1960s to meet with Ken Iverson of the Nucor Corporation. They successfully recruited Vulcraft, Nucor's first greenfield site, to Norfolk in 1964, which was followed by Nucor Steel and Nucor Cold Finish. The team also played an important role in the recruitment of 3M, known today as Arnold Magnetic Technologies and Flexmag Industries Inc.
The original Norpark site could have been sold and developed many times throughout the years, but the Foundation was insistent regarding the type of business it wished to locate there, knowing the gateway location served as a first impression to visitors entering the community from the east. In 1999, the group realized its objective when it submitted a proposal that was selected for a new Nebraska Public Power District call center. The group also worked to recruit and locate the state-of-the-art Nucor Detailing Center on the land. Both buildings provide a beautiful entrance to Norfolk for those visiting from the east.
In 2017, the Foundation members conducted a strategic planning session and identified workforce housing as the number one priority. After consulting with the city planner, it was determined the remaining portion of the Norpark parcel would be well-suited for a mixture of residential development. After discussion with the Nebraska Public Power District and Nucor Detailing Center, the group pursued a developer to construct workforce housing and found one in NeighborWorks Northeast Nebraska. The Foundation then sold the land to NeighborWorks to help foster a development that will boast 28 detached single-family homes and 22 attached single-family homes for families and workforce wishing to reside in Norfolk.
The Foundation’s most recent project includes the purchase of 140 acres in southwest Norfolk. This site, which is currently zoned Agriculture, is the future site of a heavy commercial/light industrial business park. The GNEDF is working with Olsson to conduct due diligence and master plan the site so the land can be maximized for use and provide connectivity to the remaining undeveloped land that connects to U.S. Highway 275. Lots are currently for sale. Learn more.
Throughout the years, the Foundation has played an important role in the recruitment of business and industry for the community. Now the members are responding to the needs of the existing businesses the founding members brought here and promised to support. Past and present members have generously volunteered their time and resources to economic development efforts, and the Norfolk area is forever in their debt.
GNEDF Board Members
President: Russ Wilcox
City Appointed At-Large
Vice President: Ron Schmidt
Sec.-Treasurer: Jim Bradford Jr.
Action Council Appointed At-Large
Director: Angie Stenger
Immediate Past Chair of the Norfolk
Area Chamber of Commerce
Director: Mike Sousek
Chair of Action Council
Director: Thomas L. Higginbotham, Jr.
Vice-Chair of Action Council
Director: Josh Moenning
Mayor of Norfolk
Director: Stephen Sunderman
County Appointed At-Large
Director: Mike Flood
Greater Norfolk Economic Development Foundation Appointed At-Large
Denise M. Wilkinson, President & CEO
Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce
Andrew Colvin, City Administrator &
Director of Economic Development
City of Norfolk
Dr. Leah Barrett, President
Northeast Community College
David Copple, Legal Counsel
Greater Norfolk Economic