Affordable living, a relaxed lifestyle, and droves of job opportunities have newcomers flocking to this Nebraska city.
Sandhill cranes aren’t the only ones flocking to Kearney. The town attracts businesses and draws new talent, lured by a region packed with amenities, yet offering a low cost of living.
From charming neighborhoods with access to well-maintained parks, rural escapes with plenty of acres, or urban-style living above businesses in the historic downtown, Kearney offers residents diverse living options without the big price tag.
The median home price in Buffalo County is around $227,000
– lower than in Omaha and Lincoln – and 83% of the U.S. average.
Nearly 70% of residents own their own home.
The city’s central location and access to Interstate 80 also position the community to attract businesses – but not at the cost of its Midwestern ideals.
“Our business community has always been focused on the customers’ needs,” says Derek Rusher, president and CEO of the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce. “What makes Kearney even more special is the employee experience is equally important to our businesses.”
Kearney business owners collectively agree a happy workforce creates happy customers – and this humble gamble is paying off.
Loving the Relaxed Lifestyle
The relaxed lifestyle here attracted Jessica Stevenson, a producer, reporter and anchor for NTV News who moved from Detroit to Nebraska in 2016 after a battle against melanoma.
“I knew I wanted to reenter the news world after the year off, but I also knew I needed a slower, kinder pace of life while I continued my recovery,” she says. “Nebraska was the perfect fit.”
Kearney offers many young adults like Stevenson a place to start or advance a career. The region added nearly 2,000 jobs between 2010 and 2019 – a nearly 10% increase. The region’s diverse economy includes health care, higher education, manufacturing, technology, aviation services and agribusiness. Of course, there’s still room for entrepreneurship.
Stevenson launched her own small business (a boutique skincare brand) during the pandemic. She said the community’s support helped her grow from having a stand at the farmers market to having a presence in stores across the state.
“From startup advice to carrying my product in their stores, so many people have played a huge role in helping my natural body care company come to fruition,” she says.
Her ability to launch a business is a testament to one of the unique aspects of life in Kearney – a true work-life balance. Employers recognize the need for their workforce to decompress, create and play in between shifts. Not facing constant burnout, Kearney’s workforce is able to enjoy the outdoor recreation opportunities, arts and cultural attractions, shops and restaurants “on the bricks” downtown, and the many other amenities the region has to offer.
“One thing that you should know about Kearney, Nebraska,
is we have some of the hardest working people in the country.
We also have the Midwest values of integrity.
Kearney employers measure performance on results,
not on when or how often someone punches a clock.”
Derek Rusher | Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce
Recruitment and Retention
Rusher says showcasing Kearney’s better way of life is a key component of the chamber’s talent recruitment and retention strategy. From redesigning relocation literature to creating new partnerships to amplifying its message to other regions, the chamber continues its work in bringing the best and brightest to Kearney. The chamber offers a concierge service for businesses that are recruiting employees.
Putting down roots is one way to ensure talent retention. The region offers a myriad of volunteer opportunities and integrates newcomers into the community through these projects and causes. In addition to supporting volunteerism, the chamber promotes leadership development programming, including Leadership Kearney and the more recent Kearney Young Professionals Network, targeting transplants like Stevenson. Those efforts are paying dividends.
“I had originally planned on staying here for a year,” Stevenson says. “But I fell in love with Kearney, the state and especially the people here.”