Mediating, communicating and organizing are three things David Branch does well.
Those traits should prove beneficial for Branch, who began his new job Jan. 6 as Executive Director of the Falls City Area Chamber of Commerce and Main Street organization. Branch replaced former director Eric Barr, who resigned last November.
Branch’s background in mediation began six years ago as an intern in the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, where he mediated more than 300 divorce cases and spoke proudly of his “84 percent agreement rate.”
“My specialization is alternative dispute resolution,” said Branch, who is certified by the state to handle a wide range of mediation cases. “I hope to use that to help with any conflicts between the chamber and the city or the merchants, or between any consumers and merchants. I’ve volunteered my services to sit down with any of them. Mediation is not about compromises. It’s about communication and learning to listen to other parties.”
Currently a DuBois resident, Branch owned a floor covering business in Pawnee City for 10 years before finishing his bachelor’s degree in 2007 at Peru State College. In 2009, Branch completed his master’s at PSC in Organizational Development with a specialty in Economic Development and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Business Management through Capella University.
Branch said he is currently working on several projects and has found the business owners and merchants very open-minded.
“Everybody I’ve talked to is excited about trying new things,” Branch said. “The business owners and merchants all want to see good things happen in Falls City.”
A few examples of the projects include collaborating between all the communities in Richardson County on an events calendar, which Branch said would include information on county events such as Cobblestone, the Humboldt Free Fair and Spring Fling, Easter egg hunts and events at Indian Cave. The calendar would then be mailed to county residents twice a year. A business directory listing all Falls City businesses would be distributed to hotels, restaurants and other places visitors frequent, and completing the construction and placement of way-finding signs that were left out of Phase 1 of the Main Street project.
Branch said the initial price of the signs was “blown way out of proportion” and thinks he can still get them done at a reasonable price.
“We’re trying to get them made locally or through a local merchant,” Branch explained. “The ones on Stone Street, we don’t have to worry about state specifications and the city has been very good about working with us.”
Branch said the signs on Harlan involve a little more red tape to work around, as the state has certain specifications that must be met and so they are still waiting to hear back from them.
“Sauce and Cycles” is the name of a new event Branch is working on for the Fourth of July weekend. The event would be held on Stone Street and feature barbeque vendors, motorcycles, a beer garden and live music.
“I already have probably five or 10 barbeque teams who said they would be here if I can get it to happen,” Branch said. “It will not be Kansas City BBQ Society sanctioned, but eventually we’d like to see it get to that point. My thought right now is that we’d probably have somewhere around a thousand people come through as ‘People’s Choice’ judges where they buy wristbands and go through and try the food.”
Branch said he’s talked to a few people associated with the Falls City Traveler’s softball teams to see if they would be willing to raise funds for their team by selling tickets to the event, which would coincide with the 16-and-under Class C State Tournament to be held July 4-6 in Falls City.
“If we can get enough publicity and enough interest from the community, I think it’s something that could become a sanctioned event and get bigger every year.
“We’re looking to do anything we can to bring visitors downtown to the merchants. That’s the main thing. Get them acquainted with Stone Street and the merchants in Falls City,” which Branch described as, “the best kept secret in southeast Nebraska.”