York, NE sits about 50 miles west of Lincoln, three miles north of I-80. As I drove out there I noticed that few towns along the route had much development at their exits even though there are tens of thousands of vehicles/day passing by. York was a completely different story. There were motels, restaurants, gas stations, a new Wal-Mart Supercenter, and other retailers.
I asked Norene Fitzgerald, head of ED for the county, why York had so much activity compared to other towns along the interstate, “Jack Kitter, who was city administrator at the time, understood the importance of the interstate and got the water and sewer out there. And, he got the developers to help him pay for it.”
Today York generates $2 million/year in sales tax from this foresight on their 1.5% sales tax share. As a result they have one of the lowest property tax rates of a city their size in the state.
It probably would have been much easier for Jack Kitter to sit back and not do anything. Retailers in the downtown area weren’t in favor at the time and put some restrictions on what could be built out by the interstate (an antiquated, but still in existence restriction in York). But if it wasn’t for people like the Jack Kitters of the world, you wouldn’t have towns like York that are differentiating themselves from the also-rans.