Community growth and job development were the focus of the Grand Island City Council members at their Tuesday meeting.

The council approved a resolution authorizing the city to enter into an economic development agreement with Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction/Sycamore Investments, LLC.

Zabuni Specialty Coffee, which will be located at 220 N. Walnut St. in Grand Island’s Railside District, has submitted an LB840 application for a forgivable loan for $100,000 over four years.

The CEO of Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction is Laban Njuguna of Grand Island. Zabuni would host monthly, online and in-person auctions to sell green bean coffee (raw) to the North American market. The coffee would be sourced from small farmers in Kenya. The idea of Njuguna’s business is to buy directly from the small family farmers and then auction the raw beans here in Grand Island. It would be premium coffee being auctioned for further processing. It eliminates the middle man so the farmers can capture a better price for their coffee.

Zabuni would also create economic opportunity here in Grand Island. The LB840 funding will help create 10 new jobs with an hourly wage of $18. Zabuni is requesting $50,000 for job creation, $25,000 for job training and $25,000 for infrastructure.

According to Dave Taylor, president of the Grand Island Area Economic Development Corp. (GIAEDC), the LB840 funds would be disbursed incrementally through 2022.

Njuguna said the first shipment of Kenyan coffee beans should be arriving in Grand Island in late July.

He said his operation is the first specialty coffee auction in the world.

In 2012, Grand Island voters approved LB840 funding to enable the city to extend economic development incentives through the GIAEDC.

The council also approved a semi-annual report from the GIAEDC/Citizen Advisory Review Committee. In 2012, the city adopted an ordinance that established an economic development plan and a Citizen Advisory Review Committee to oversee the process of approving applications for economic development incentives. Part of their responsibility is to make a semi-annual report to the City Council.

Taylor went over the report, explaining to council members how LB840 money has been used to create more than 1,000 jobs that have paid out more than $32 million in wages at an average rate of pay of $18.35 per hour.

Since 2012, GIAEDC has allocated $5.4 million in LB840 money to create the high-paying jobs at such businesses as GIX Logistics, Inland Trucking and Hendrix Genetics. Taylor said $1.6 million of LB840 money is still available.

With the city’s approval on Tuesday, part of that money will now be going to Zabuni Specialty Coffee to establish that business and create new jobs in the community.

Taylor told the council with a new industrial park in development, with the help of LB840 incentive money, GIAEDC hopes to continue to recruit businesses or grow an existing business that will pay high wages to community workers.

Another new business for which the council approved a conditional use permit on Tuesday is a small veterinary clinic/animal hospital that will treat only horses. The clinic and hospital will be owned and operated by Christopher and Kay Kotulak, who is a veterinarian. The facility will be located at 5066 Ft. Kearney Road and will be able to treat about 20 horses.

The City Council also approved the hiring of a new police officer to replace a retiring officer, along with another officer. That will put the force at 86 full-time employees. The extra officer is needed, according to Grand Island Police Chief Robert Falldorf, to keep the force adequately staffed for public safety as there are three officers currently in training, along with having an officer available if there’s an officer who either retires or leaves the force.

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I cover business, ag and general reporting for the GI Independent.

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