Susan Norris

Pierce County Economic Development


Osmond, Plainview, Pierce, Hadar, McLean, Foster

Graduate of College of St. Mary, Omaha, Neb.

2020 Experience

Focus: Community Marketing, Resident Retention and Recruitment

The main focus of this project will be to market Pierce County. Students will help market the county by creating social media videos, blog posts, improve county websites, and create mini commercials and other marketing methods. A community impressions survey will be developed for each community. A secondary project will provide assistance to Plainview in establishing a networking/co-share space in a former community building.

Students: Judith GreyMarie Meis
Peer: Chad Anderson

Sponsored By: Pierce County Economic Development

Susan’s Nebraska Story

I grew up in Millard, NE a suburb of Omaha with my parents and four brothers. In 2002 I met and married my husband, Mike in Omaha and we have three children. In 2014, my husband asked me to take a leap of faith and move to his home town of Plainview, NE to run the family farm. He always said that we would move to the farm ‘someday.’ I always thought ‘someday’ was when we were 60. My husband and kids had an easy transition to the farm and small town life. I did not . Moving to a farm eight miles from the nearest town (1200 people) is a shock to the system when you are used to living in a city the size of Omaha. Fast forward 5 years and I have learned to drive a tractor, haul grain, herd cattle AND be a champion for the county in economic development.

What do you hope to gain?

By hosting interns for the summer we hope to discover new perspectives and skill sets and re-energize PCED. On a personal level we hope to improve on our existing leadership and mentoring skills and take what we have learned back to our communities and leadership groups to make them stronger.

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

Creating inclusive communities and workplaces are vital to our success in rural Nebraska. We need to place an emphasis on this type of leadership development in order to be competitive and to create a culture/community that is attractive to people interested in living and working in our county. In small communities we need to develop leaders who have the courage to buck tradition. The ‘this is the way its always been done’ mentality and the clique culture that can sometimes take hold in a town prevents growth and progress and leads to apathy. We need to develop leaders who are curious, progressive, open minded, collaborative and committed.

Why is this contribution of students from NU significant to you and your community?

We are excited to have been selected to host RFI interns this summer. To our communities and organization the interns represent fresh new ideas, energy, growth and the ability to bring some vibrancy to our current projects, programs and boards. NU has always been a huge supporter of rural Nebraska. We have taken advantage of several programs offered by the Community Vitality Department to increase social engagement, entrepreneurship and leadership in our communities. NU’s continuing support of rural is important to our growth and success as a county, and the RFI interns are another way NU continues to contribute to the growth and development of rural Nebraska.

Why is rural important?

On a large scale, rural communities are the backbone of our country. We produce the food that feeds America and the world, we supply much of its energy and workforce. On a small scale the values, education, social fabric, accountability and interconnectedness that exists in rural communities doesn’t exist outside of it. Because our youth are growing up in small towns with multiple strong support networks in place (their parents, extended families, schools, booster groups, church network, community groups, the local newspaper and the town itself) they are outpacing their peers in large cities when it comes to youth economic mobility, as outlined in the recent Bridgespan/ National 4-H council report. Rural has its challenges as well. Lack of broadband service, ageing infrastructure, housing, workforce and daycare shortages all make economic development in rural areas difficult.

Why does now provide tremendous opportunity to move rural communities forward?

Improvements in communications and technology provide a huge opportunity to transform rural communities. It has the ability to take businesses global and allow remote working. Technology and online platforms have also created a rise in the ‘freelance economy’ which allows people, especially professionals, to work from anywhere. The number of jobs that can be done remotely is growing and that is something small towns can take advantage of.