The weekly meeting of the Vermillion Rotary Club was held at the Neuharth Center on Tuesday, Aug. 22. The meeting was brought to order by President Roger Kozak and the invocation was given by Rev. Robert Grossman.
It was announced that the Rotary Club will host the Welcome Table on Sept. 25 and that the Rotary District Conference will be held in Wagner Sept. 22-24.
Rotarian Barry Vickrey introduced his guest, John Kingsbury, who was also the speaker for the day. Mr. Kingsbury is the president of the Bank of Dixon County in the Nebraska towns of Ponca, Newcastle and Jackson.
He is also president of the Better Ponca Foundation, Inc. He is a graduate of Ponca High School, a 1969 graduate of USD and a 2004 recipient of the USD Alumni Achievement Award. He has been instrumental in bringing about nearly $20 million in development at Ponca State Park.
Mr. Kingsbury began his presentation by asking what makes towns revive themselves? A few years ago small town main street USA was going downhill. By the late 1980s, it became apparent that saving the 320 acre family farm and the local hardware store was not economically viable.
While attending economic conferences attendees were told to go home and look at their communities. The ones who survive will recognize their strengths and make the most of them.
A Nebraska senator was quoted as saying that Ponca State Park with all its natural beauty was the state's best kept secret. That needed to be changed. Through the development of the park the area economy has been changed because of tourism. Another economic factor was Ponca becoming the number one bedroom community in Siouxland. This came about by developing partnerships between the people, the city and the state. Highland Golf Course was build by raising $468 thousand dollars and 100 percent volunteer labor. It is owned by the city, operated privately and is located on state land.
Mr. Kingsbury stated that the Missouri is a great resource for all the communities along its banks. Ponca State Park had 642,000 visitors last year and is growing. The next phase is to raise $6 million dollars to build cabins for retreats, seminars and family reunions.
He closed by saying Vermillion needs to find people with ideas and visions. The university and the town need to work together to develop ideas for the river for summer use. They need to think beyond what is possible.
They need to think about who are their partners of the future. What happens when the current leadership retires? Who will take their place? Are we offering what the people of the future want? Are the young people attracted to stay here?
We need to find young people with the entrepreneurial spirit. These are interesting questions we all need to ponder.