Don't Pass on the Passport

Don't Pass on the Passport
November 1, 2023
As I write this, fall is just beginning, and it is time for fall festivals, garage sales and all sorts of activities as the temperatures cool off. How is your community celebrating the changing seasons? Are you working with neighboring communities to draw in larger crowds?

Every October the Trail of Treasures garage sale is held annually along Highway 136. Have you ever wondered why something like that works? It’s because communities and individuals are working together. Everyone hosts a garage sale on the same weekend, and there are more customers because there is a cluster of garage sales along the same highway.

Are there ways to make that concept work for other things? The Nebraska Beef Council has a Beef Passport Program, which, by the way, has a large hole in the ten counties that I serve. The Diller Locker Company is the lone representative. Golfing has a Nebraska Golf Passport and Nebraska Tourism puts out a Nebraska Passport program every year. There are also winery programs and micro-brewery maps as well.

You might wonder if these programs are useful. I know that many people use the Nebraska Passport to explore Nebraska each year. They not only stop and shop at passport locations, but at other businesses in the community. These dollars add up. If you could get 10 more customers a week, what would that do to your business or community?

Many of the communities I work with are small, but they have one or two unique businesses. However, they may not be a destination in themselves. What if several businesses in a 30-50-mile radius worked together to create their own passport, or even a weekend trip?

What if you had a hotel, lunch restaurant, a steakhouse or other evening dining location, and a handful of unique retail stores who all got together and had a weekend travel deal, all winter, or all year long? Each business would pledge to be open certain hours, and you could provide discounts or sales that are only available to those on the weekend trip. If the weekends are your busy time, perhaps it could be a weekday program. The possibilities are endless.

Many people who live in cities are looking for an escape to the country. Can your local chamber of commerce, or even independent business owners, work to bring some of those people out to experience our rural way of life? By working regionally we can help people find our local businesses and experience more of our region. We have interesting businesses and locations that people will want to explore. We just have to provide them with a reason to come visit. Working together is the best option—we don’t have to compete with each other over the same shoppers in our community. We can bring other shoppers into all of our communities by working together.

Our Rural Prosperity Nebraska programs are available on a local or even regional basis. Perhaps one community doesn’t have enough people to commit to one of our leadership programs, but if you include the whole county or region, it would be possible. If you’re interested in hosting or attending one of our programs, let us know. We can work with you to brainstorm ideas that make our programs available to you.

If your community could benefit from any of the Rural Prosperity Nebraska ideas that I’ve discussed in this column, please reach out to me. I’d love to speak to your community about these topics. You can reach me at or at the Thayer County office at 402-768-7212.

Jason Tuller is an Extension Educator for the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He works in the Rural Prosperity Nebraska program and covers ten-county area including Kearney, Adams, Clay, Fillmore, Saline, Franklin, Webster, Nuckolls, Thayer, and Jefferson Counties.

Photo provided by the Nebraska Tourism Commission.