KEARNEY, Neb. — The front door of Kearney has moved south. 

A constantly growing hospitality district welcomes visitors when they exit off of Interstate 80. Soon, the city’s tourism and business organizations will be a part of the entrance to the community. The Forward Kearney project broke ground on Monday. Leaders say it marks an extraordinary moment for the city and county. 

“It just shows the growth of Kearney, and our business community, and the people that come visit our community, and the economic development - the businesses that are wanting to come choose Kearney," Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Derek Rusher said. "When you take all three of those, and hence the three entities inside the building, it just makes sense as Kearney grows, we grow.”

The new building will fit between Younes Landing and the Kearney SportsPlex, which are also under construction. It will house the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, Development Council of Buffalo County and the Kearney Visitors Bureau. Those groups are currently in a cramped building near 2nd Ave. and 11th St.

“We attempt to collaborate as much as we can, but our building and our infrastructure doesn’t really allow us," Rusher said. "We’re siloed by offices.”

The desire to collaborate is there. The heads of the three organizations say they’ve seen what happens when their counterparts in other cities don’t work together.

“You see territorialism, more self interest," Development Council of Buffalo County Executive Director Trevor Lee said. "There’s that saying, it’s amazing what we can get accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit.”

The new building will triple their square footage and include a state-of-the-art 2,000 square-foot visitors center. It will include exhibits and use interactive media to point visitors to attractions that might interest them.

“Once we get them excited about Kearney once, maybe we can get them to come back a second time, or how many people will they tell if they had a positive experience,” Kearney Visitors Bureau Director Roger Jasnoch said.

The total project cost is $5.6 million. The organizations have raised just over $4 million so far. Their leaders believe the capital campaign will mirror the progress in the city.

“If you just start looking at all of the things that are happening in our community and with this project, it’s extraordinary,” Rusher said.

Work at the site is already underway with Chief Construction in charge. It’s expected to take a year to build. Leaders hope it’s open before the end of next year.