If you live in the Grand Island area, you're now officially part of a metropolitan area, that extends well beyond city limits.
Last year, the city achieved urban status with population over 50,000. This is different, as the government recognizes four counties as metropolitan, even rural areas.
The cattle outnumber people in Kristen Klein's view of the world near Cairo.
"I don't see many other people out here," he said with a laugh.
Yet, this is the newest government metropolitan area. That designation has less to do with urban and rural, and more to do with where Kristen goes for church, groceries, and supplies."Orscheln's, Tractor Supply, whatever there is in Grand Island," he said. "Yeah, maybe that's metropolitan." Regional Planning Director Chad Nabity said the designation is a big deal.
He said, "Things are changing in Grand Island and are going to continue to change." Nabity says it's a reflection of Grand Island's status as the regional economic center. Grand Island is home to the Nebraska State Fair, plus is known as a retail and health care hub. Plus it's an employment base, with major employers like JBS Swift, Case IH, Chief Industries, Principal Financial, Grand Island Public Schools, and St. Francis Medical Center. "We have all kinds of artificial boundaries, whether county line or city limits. Those are political boundaries, artificially created. They don't describe the interaction of populations," he said. The new designation finds folks in Howard, Hamilton, and Merrick Counties along with Hall County are interconnected Nabity said, "You have a central city, a core city with at least 50,000 people in an urban area." Grand Island may become a so–called entitlement city, automatically getting funds it once competed for.
Nabity says it's like celebrating your 16th, 18th, and 21st birthdays at the same time. "Well 50,000 is major milestone only you get to drive, you get to vote, you get to sign contracts, you get to drink all at the same time," he explained. Kristen Klein and his family like the proximity to services of now-metropolitan Grand Island, from the distance of their farm 15 minutes outside of town. He said, "Absolutely. I love it out here – got my kids out here, just loving live and we couldn't turn them loose in the city where they've got 100 acres to roam on." According to researcher David Drozd at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, the metro population is 83,472.
The addition of these four counties now gives Nebraska 13 metro counties -- centered around Omaha, Lincoln, and now Grand Island.