Kosman on Immigration in Scottsbluff: "It's Made Us What We Are"

Henry 'Hod' Kosman
Henry "Hod" Kosman

"Without continued immigration in Nebraska, I don't know what we'd do," according to Henry "Hod" Kosman, Chairman, President and CEO of the Platte Valley National Bank and Platte Valley Companies, and a principal stakeholder in Scottsbluff. Kosman said the shortage of workers threatens the economies of communities and states with small populations.

Kosman's family has lived in the Scottsbluff area since 1909; Kosman has lived with the cultural mixing in the Scottsbluff area all his life. "It's made us what we are," he said. The community is comprised mainly of Americans of Greek, German, German Russian and Mexican descent - most of whose ancestors immigrated to the area. There is a Native American population, too, as the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is just north of Nebraska's Panhandle, in South Dakota.

"It has been a 'much smoother ride' for the Scottsbluff area than it has been in other areas that are experiencing cultural issues connected with new immigration.

Long History of Assimilating Immigrants
"We've been assimilating immigrant workers since 1920," he said. "It has been an evolution for us." Kosman said it has been a "much smoother ride" for the Scottsbluff area than it has been in other areas that are experiencing cultural issues connected with new immigration.

Kosman said the American system has always been welcoming to immigration, and Scottsbluff has made it a way of life. His Platte Valley Companies hire people in many areas of banking who can speak both Spanish and English to serve the many customers who need that service.

Most immigrants who come to the Scottsbluff area want to do well, he said, but the Native American population "has never gotten there." In the Native American community, he sees no leadership, no understanding, and no commitment to responsibilities such as staying in school, paying rent on time or attending meetings. Kosman thinks the reservation system facilitates that. "I just don't know how we make a difference there," he said.

Advocate for State's Rights
Kosman is passionate about the Panhandle area of Nebraska, and is an advocate for public lands, protecting the environment and state's rights. The Panhandle is different from the rest of Nebraska and from the rest of the country in many ways, he said, and laws and policies developed to apply universally just don't make sense in some parts of the country, including Nebraska's Panhandle. " 'One size fits all' doesn't fit anybody," he said.

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