Seward adds ‘Showcase City’ to list of accolades


Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen presented Seward with the 2024 Nebraska Showcase Community of the Year award at an April 2 ceremony at the Nebraska National Guard Museum.

The distinction was made on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development in recognition of the community’s growth and achievements over the last five years.

“A day like today is so much fun from my seat because this didn’t happen yesterday. It didn’t happen today. There’s extraordinary people in the community of Seward, and it’s been going on for generations,” Pillen said.

He reflected on his past time spent in Seward, when his father-in-law, the late Marvin Shreve, was superintendent of Seward Public Schools from 1975 to 1993.

“This recognition doesn’t happen by luck. It doesn’t happen because of your location. It only happens because of extraordinary people working together to make things take place,” Pillen said.

Maj. Gen. Craig W. Strong, Adjutant General of the Nebraska National Guard, helped present the award.

“This is quite a distinguished event today, but it’s just not a surprise. You make it look easy, these recognitions and accomplishments of Seward, but no one realizes that behind the scenes of most of these instances, really the hard work and dedication and civic pride that it takes to pull these projects together to be recognized. It’s just amazing,” Strong said.

He pointed to the National Guard’s values and how Seward emulates them day to day.

“The National Guard’s motto is Always Ready, Always There. And I’ll tell you that the community of Seward is always ready. Always ready to step up to support the community either economically or through support of civic events,” he said.

Strong highlighted Seward’s annual hosting of the Fourth of July celebration, calling Seward a home away from home for people who don’t live here but come to celebrate each year.

“But it goes way beyond that. There is so much to be excited for,” Strong said.

Seward Mayor Josh Eickmeier echoed that sentiment.

“We throw a pretty good party. We really encourage everyone to come back, but more importantly, that’s one day that we take a lot of pride in, but there’s 364 other days that we really encourage people to come to Seward,” Eickmeier said.

The honor is based on both public and private contributions to economic development and highlights Seward’s position as one of the top cities in the state for quality of life, according to the NDED.

The community’s award nomination focused on achievements over the past five years including:

• development at the Seward/Lincoln Regional Rail Campus, a 306-acre industrial park;

• housing and business development, including downtown revitalization efforts and healthcare expansion;

  education improvements including renovated school facilities and investments in career and technical education, wider availability of mental health services for students and new state-of-the-art facilities at Concordia University;

• bolstered tourism, financial impact through grants, and public and private donations on projects like the Seward Wellness Center and Rural Workforce Housing development.

Among those recognized at the ceremony were Jonathan Jank of the Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership, school leaders, healthcare leaders, business leaders, the city council and many more.

Eickmeier made a special point to thank city staff for their work in bringing housing and businesses to town.

“Those are the department heads that have to answer the specifics. Do we have the electricity? Do we have the natural gas available? Do we have the other utilities that are expected?” he said. “You can only make good decisions with good information. That’s what we try to always do, be up front and above board, be honest. We don’t want to oversell. We want to deliver. We want to make sure that we can do what we say we’re going to do because our reputation is very important to us as a community.”

Jank thanked the Seward County Visitor’s Bureau, City Administrator Greg Butcher, NDED staff, energy providers, elected officials including Sen. Jana Hughes, and the nearly 300 public and private sector members of the SCCDP, many of whom were involved in the projects related to the nomination.

During the ceremony, Pillen signed a proclamation declaring April “Community Development Month” in Nebraska.