From those wild days in the 1860s to 1880s Sidney slowed down into a farming (wheat) and cattle area, developing into a mini-regional town second only to Scottsbluff in the western panhandle of NE. The next big boom occurred during WWII when Sidney was chosen as the site for a massive munitions production and supply depot, The Sioux Army Depot, which eventually had 2,500 employees.
Oil and gas discoveries near Sidney turned the town into an oil boomtown in the early 50s. And, the construction of the Minuteman Missile System in the area in the 60s (37 silos in the county) also added greatly to the economy.
But the Army Depot closed, the oil played out and it doesn’t take many people to maintain missile silos built into the ground. And, Sidney would have probably slowly declined but for a couple of key decisions made by leaders in the community in 1968, which I was there to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of, and in 1988. I’ll have more on those key decisions over the next couple of days.
Today, Sidney has more people working in the town (6,400) than sleep there at night, which is an incredible distinction especially when you consider that the average in the USA is about 64%. I’ve only found about 6 towns in the entire country that can claim such a ratio.
I generally begin each talk citing examples of towns that come to “forks in the road”, make key decisions and then go down one fork or another, and Sidney is a great example of those forks in the road that are either taken or not. Fortunately for the people of Sidney today, leaders in the past decided to go down specific forks and the town prospered as a result.
Here’s a smattering of the things that I saw in this incredible town of 6,282, things that towns two, three and four times its size would love to have. They have a wonderful park system, beginnings of a massive trail system, a wonderful Main Street program, a new fishing pond and even a shooting park. Construction will get underway in June on a new $17 million high school. New subdivisions are being built and a drive through the community shows lots of economic activity.
Tomorrow, more on those key forks in the road that Sidney found and went down.