Kearney Corridor. Photo by Mike Konz.
By Mike Konz
Visibility and Access are two factors driving development along the Kearney East Bypass in Kearny, a small city in south central Nebraska.
The bypass – officially state Highway 10 – carries traffic to and from Kearney’s secondary interstate exit. The bypass allows motorists to avoid Kearney’s busiest traffic artery, Second Avenue.
In the handful of years since the bypass opened to traffic, motorists have discovered the road is a handy route around the east side of Kearney, and as traffic volume continuously increases, the bypass is becoming a corridor for economic development.
Austin Gardine, owner of Midwest Elite Contracting, is among business operators who believe the Kearney East Bypass offers a variety of opportunities for growth-minded businesses.
Gardine’s primary business is in construction, but he’s currently building several boat and RV storage buildings near the bypass.
He said his location within two miles of Kearney’s new east Interstate 80 exit will be ideal for customers towing or driving large vehicles and trailers to and from his new storage facility.
In addition to the storage facility, Gardine’s new location will provide space for a showroom and offices.
In a year or two, Gardine intends to build a new headquarters near his storage buildings. He said he is banking on the visibility of the site to contribute to the success of his venture. The storage buildings will be open in the spring.
“The main reason for that location is you can see Kearney growing along the new expressway,” Gardine said.
Gardine’s business is among the first to set up shop along the East Bypass, but it won’t be the last, said Brenda Jensen, an assistant city manager for the city of Kearney and director of development.
“The potential is enormous,” Jensen said about the East Bypass corridor.
“We’ll see a lot of businesses with a transportation component,” Jensen said about immediate development. The types of businesses will evolve over time, she said. “We’re probably 20 years from a fast food place, but we may see a gas station.”
Jensen said if municipal utilities, such as water and sewer mains were present, it would accelerate development, but those services are yet to be installed along most of the bypass. It stretches almost 11 miles from the east I-80 exit and proceeds northward until it curves to the west where the bypass becomes 78th Street. That road carries bypass traffic westerly to Highway 40 at Glenwood Corner and the north end of Kearney’s Second Avenue.
The absence of municipal services hasn’t stopped Butler Ag Equipment from being an early bird business on the bypass.
Formerly located on U.S. Highway 30 between Kearney and Gibbon, Butler Ag opened last year. The business didn’t wait for utilities, Jensen said, but instead built its own water main and has about 13 lots charted for development on its property.
She said the Nebraska Department of Transportation controls access points along the bypass. Access points that are near I-80 include four exits: 11th Street, Coal Chute Road, 39th Street and 56th Street.
Trevor Lee, president of the Economic Development Council of Buffalo County, said that from his perspective, the East Kearney Bypass possesses tremendous development potential. There are good roads and convenient interstate access, and the variety of zoning options makes it easier to accommodate new businesses.
“A lot of times we get these RFPs (requests for proposals),” he said about the advantages of having property that’s suitable for multiple uses, making it prime for development.
“Transportation and location always are important,” Lee said.
Mike Konz is a reporter with the Kearny Hub.