U.S. Rep. Mike Flood doesn’t have many regrets. One of them, however, goes back to his early years as a state senator in the Nebraska Legislature. The Norfolkian, who now serves in the U.S. Congress, said he remembers seeing requests for funding for public art and being quick to vote against them. Flood, who was in the Legislature the first time from 2005 to 2012, said he knows he voted against public art projects.

“I did not at all appreciate what the value was to quality of life,” Flood said. “I did because I didn’t want public tax dollars supporting any public art projects in a state office building.” Flood said one of the things he learned before he got back to the Nebraska Legislature the second time was that dollars put in public arts offer high returns. The data shows it increases the chances that young people will feel stickiness and attraction to your community,” Flood said. “It also improves quality of life and helps attract higher skilled employees.”

When U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts was governor, he endorsed public arts. More states are funding public art projects in hopes of attracting a higher educated and more skilled workforce, Flood said. His comments came Wednesday evening during a Northeast Nebraska Growing Together update at the Lifelong Learning Center. Flood said he is pleased that Norfolk recognizes the value of arts and culture, with 18 new sculptures and one of the state’s first creative districts. As a community, Norfolk must stay unified. Flood said there are a lot of successes hat have happened already in Norfolk, thanks to Wayne State College, Northeast Community College, the City of Norfolk, private investors and employers who already have stepped up to hire Wayne State students. “Right now, our river is under construction. There’s going to be a waterway where you can kayak and do whatever else you want,” Flood said. “This is going to be a one-of-a kind feature across the United States and the Midwest.

It is one thing that will differentiate us from a lot of communities in the nation.” The river included $3  illion being raised privately, Flood said. Johnson Park is going to be another great place that isadjacent to everything and is happening with primarily city investment, Flood said. There will  lways be questions about projects and public funding. Flood said he doesn’t endorse these all these projects just because they represent private and public partnerships. “I’m for this project  ecause I think it is one of the only ways we can increase our population and attract more young people,” Flood said. “Because I think it is going to work, I am willing to stand up in  ublic and defend all the things that are happening and all the reasons for it.” When it comes to retaining young people, past decades have shown that “doing nothing” will get Norfolk and Northeast Nebraska nowhere, Flood said. “(Doing nothing) is the only guaranteed result in this whole process,” he said, as the past has shown.