Crete's Growth Attributed to Industry, Immigration

Crete's Growth Attributed to Industry, Immigration

Seventeen languages are spoken at Farmland Foods in Crete, located in the northeast part of Saline County in southeast Nebraska. That, says Crete Mayor Tom Crisman, gives you an idea of how diverse Crete has become since the Farmland pork processing plant opened its doors for operation in Crete in 1975.

The face of the diverse workforce has changed over the years, he said, from many Vietnamese when Farmland located in Crete, to mostly Latino today. The term "Latino" includes those from Mexico or any of the Latin American countries. Crisman himself has worked full-time at Farmland for 18 years, and now is a maintenance technician for the company. His shift at Farmland ends at 3 p.m., and he walks into the mayor's office in City Hall within minutes after that. In Crete, the mayor's responsibilities are officially part-time, but Crisman noted that the responsibilities nearly equal another full-time job.

Crete has grown, Crisman said, thanks to Farmland Foods, Nestle Purina Petcare Co., Wal-Mart and two new cold storage facilities. Its population is now about 6,300, according to a 2005 census by the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. In 2000, the U.S. Census reported Crete's population at just over 6,000.

"There are some people who are frequently vocal about diversity and about how Crete has changed, but he said 'most of those people are unhappy with everything.'

Steven Reisdorff, Crete City Attorney, added that Saline County has the largest number of industrial jobs in Nebraska, and that diversity is not new to Crete. Reisdorff characterized Crete as a welcoming community, and indicated most people in Crete don't have problems accepting diversity. The people who do object complain about those who came to the United States illegally. "It's the illegal immigration that causes the problem," Reisdorff said. There are some people who are frequently vocal about diversity and about how Crete has changed, but he said "most of those people are unhappy with everything."

Crisman said from an employee's perspective, there aren't ethnicity-related problems between workers at Farmland. There are a few incidents in Crete as a whole, but the community works well to communicate with the diverse population; some of the police officers speak Spanish; the churches and schools are active in outreach programs.

"We're a blue-collar community," Crisman said, and explained that Crete was settled by the railroad workers, who were German. Immigrants from Czechoslovakia arrived later, continuing Crete's long history with immigration.

Even though Crisman characterizes Crete as a blue-collar community, Crete also has a strong white-collar, academic presence. Crete is home to Doane College; founded in 1872, Doane is the oldest liberal arts and sciences college in Nebraska. Most of the faculty and staff of this small, private college live in or near Crete, according to Jonathan Brand, President of Doane; and most of the students live in Crete, as well. Brand has introduced an incentive program to convince even more Doane employees to live in Crete. Doane draws its students from not only the nation, but the world.

The 2000 Census indicated that Crete's population was 6,028, with a white population of 4,868. Hispanics are the largest number of non-white residents, but Asians, blacks, American Indians and "other" comprise the rest of the non-white population. Census respondents self-identify ethnicity on census questionnaires, so the "other" category might indicate mixed-ethnicity respondents. By 2005, an unofficial population count indicated the total population had grown to 6,326, according to the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. No demographics were available for non-white residents.

Crisman said Crete is a good place to live and is continually investing in the community. Current infrastructure projects include water service and street improvements; the Crete Medical Center is a state-of-the-art hospital; schools and industry are being built and updated.

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