Golden Jubilee: Celebrating 50 Years of Progress with the Greater Fremont Development Council

Golden Jubilee: Celebrating 50 Years of Progress with the Greater Fremont Development Council Main Photo

13 Jun 2024

Fremont, Nebraska, is abuzz with anticipation as the Greater Fremont Development Council (GFDC) gears to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024. This year marks a significant milestone for the organization, which has played a pivotal role in shaping the city's economic landscape over the past five decades.

From Humble Beginnings to Grand Endeavors

The GFDC's story began in 1974 when a group of 15 visionaries led by Marvin Welstead and John R. Young embarked on a mission to spur growth and development in the Fremont area. Originally known as the Fremont Chamber Industrial Foundation, the organization has since evolved into the Greater Fremont Development Council, steadfast in its commitment to driving progress and prosperity.

Looking Back: A Legacy of Growth

Over the years, GFDC has notched several impressive achievements. Scott Meister of Pinnacle Bank, current GFDC Board Treasurer, highlights the recruitment of significant industries like Royal Canin, Lincoln Premium Poultry (LPP), and Wholesale Foods as substantial milestones. Meister also credits GFDC's decision to join the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership in 2013 as a turning point, opening doors to new opportunities for economic growth.

Chuck Johannsen, RVR Bank, a longtime GFDC Board Member, echoes Meister's sentiments. He points to "Project Rawhide," which ultimately brought Costco and Lincoln Premium Poultry to Fremont, as a significant accomplishment. Johannsen fondly remembers the collaborative spirit that brought this project to fruition, with various entities working together to make it successful.

Building a Brighter Future

GFDC's commitment to progress extends far beyond past successes. Brett Richmond, Methodist Fremont Health, current GFDC Board Chair, emphasizes the organization's role as a catalyst for Fremont's recent growth. He highlights the arrival of Costco and Lincoln Premium Poultry in 2016 as a game-changer, fueling economic expansion that has benefitted the entire community. Looking ahead, Richmond expresses his enthusiasm for the Fremont Inland Port Authority, envisioning it as a springboard for attracting new businesses and jobs to the region.

Partnerships Propelling Progress

Jennifer Bixby of Don Peterson & Associates, current GFDC Board Vice Chair, underscores the importance of collaboration between real estate leaders and GFDC. She highlights their longstanding partnership in securing properties, raising funds for incentive packages, and working together on various initiatives, all with a shared vision for Fremont's future. Bixby's involvement with GFDC began during her time on the Fremont City Council, where she witnessed firsthand the positive impact of economic development on the community.

Celebrating Milestones, Setting New Goals

Les Shallberg, a GFDC Board Member with Fremont Electric Inc., reflects on his involvement with the organization since the late 1990s. He acknowledges several accomplishments, including the Fremont bypass that enhanced the city's accessibility, the establishment of Natura Manufacturing, and the arrival of Lincoln Premium Poultry, which has had a substantial economic impact. Shallberg's most cherished memories involve witnessing the Fremont community's growing economic momentum and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a project. As GFDC embarks on its next chapter, Shallberg looks forward to the continued development of the port authority, fostering stronger relationships with existing businesses and leveraging technology to attract new ventures to Fremont.

A Decade of Dedication

Al Sawtelle's 15 years of involvement with the Fremont Department of Utilities, including 10 years as its chairman, have significantly impacted his tenure with the Greater Fremont Development Council (GFDC). Sawtelle's tenure with GFDC is marked by his appreciation for the council's evolution over the past five decades, recognizing how changes in board composition, leadership, and strategic pillars have strengthened the organization.

Two standout memories from Sawtelle's time with GFDC include his instrumental role in advancing the Inland Port Authority initiative and his swift leadership in managing GFDC during the transition. His initial contact with Senator Wayne and successful pursuit of an Inland Port Authority designation for Fremont showcased his dedication to strategic growth and development. Additionally, his leadership in hiring current CEO Megan Skiles demonstrated his commitment to ensuring a solid future for GFDC.

Looking ahead, Sawtelle is optimistic about GFDC's potential to drive the region's economic development and workforce growth. He envisions successful collaborations with educational institutions and strategic initiatives to expand quality housing and community revitalization. 

The Greater Fremont Development Council's 50th anniversary is a cause for celebration. It is a testament to the dedication and vision of its members, past and present, who have tirelessly strived to make Fremont a thriving economic hub. As the organization steps into the future, it carries the legacy of its achievements and the unwavering commitment to building an even brighter tomorrow for Fremont and Dodge County.

The Greater Fremont Development Council is dedicated to economic development and growth throughout our local area. For more information, contact us at (402) 753-8126 or visit our website.