The Crete News - The Pulse of Crete
Few people know the changing pulse of a community as well as the editor of the local newspaper. Josh Wolfe, editor of the Crete News, understands the issues connected with change in Crete, among them the changes brought by new Nebraskans arriving to work in various businesses, including the Farmland pork slaughtering and manufacturing plant.
Farmland immigration issues only began in the 1990s, Wolfe said, even though Farmland opened in 1975. The Vietnamese workers arrived, worked for several years, then all left at about the same time in 1999. At that point, the Hispanic workers moved in. "They (the immigrant workers) don't get enough credit for what they're doing. People were elated to see Farmland open," because the community needed the economic boost, he said.
"America seems to be trying to switch from a blue-collar economy to a white-collar economy," but the blue-collar work still needs to be done, he said. For example, he said, fire departments were historically staffed by the Irish because nobody else wanted to do that kind of work. History shows that the Irish immigrants were not welcomed when they came to the United States, and endured many forms of discrimination.
Apathy is one of the issues the mostly-blue-collar Crete must face, Wolfe said. "People are too busy working; they aren't interested - don't have time to be interested - in some of these issues. I don't think racism is the problem," but the changes in Crete are disturbing to some, a challenge to others, reason to celebrate for still others.
"America seems to be trying to switch from a blue-collar economy to a white-collar economy.
"The federal government hasn't created a legal way to work in America," Wolfe said, and that has created difficulties for undocumented workers and the communities alike. There's a fear factor among the undocumented workers in Crete, he said; fear of their illegal status being discovered, fear of being deported, fear for their families if that happens.
"Ten years ago, there were no Hispanic-owned businesses in Crete; now they are starting to become ingrained," Wolfe said. One of the Hispanic-owned restaurants attracts patrons of all ethnicities, he said, but people leave the restaurant and usually don't interact further with people of ethnicities other than their own.
Crete seems to be two communities, he said, and he is finding ways to bridge that gap through his coverage of events for the Crete News. But, like many Nebraska weekly newspapers, there are few resources to spend on doing new things. He hopes to encourage new businesses, including the Hispanic-owned businesses, to advertise with the newspaper. This will generate funds for growth and community engagement through the Crete News. He wants to expand coverage to the Hispanic population as well as to people of other ethnicities who live and work in the Crete area. "I'm confronted with the question of how to cover two communities at once," he said. "Our big priority now is our website, then to cover and engage the Hispanic community," he said. "I want to identify leaders and gain their trust." There are some stories he'd like to cover, some depth reports he'd like to do. There is no shortage of ideas or energy; just shortage of resources.
There is a lot of good change in Crete, Wolfe pointed out. "The Crete Schools have done some unprecedented things" regarding language education in the schools and outreach to the immigrant parents of students in the Crete Public Schools. They saw the need and "just did it," Wolfe said.
The community is investing in infrastructure, he said; for example, "they are completely revitalizing its water works," he said, "quality of life issues."
Community teamwork to help Crete continue to improve and grow will also help attract students to Doane College, which is a large employer in the community and home to just under 1,000 students. Doane has also undergone recent change. Doane's president, Jonathan Brand, was inaugurated as the college's 11th president on May 3, 2006. Brand took over leadership from presidents who each served in that role for many years and were engaged with the Crete community, Wolfe said. Continuing that established relationship between Doane and the rest of the community is essential, he said. "The college and the community are undergoing transformations at the same time."
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