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A Roadmap for Nebraska’s Future Economic Growth

By Governor Dave Heineman

Recently we unveiled the findings of a study that provided a detailed look at Nebraska’s business climate. The report was compiled by the country’s foremost researchers of innovation and research. The study recommended strategies to capitalize on existing resources in our state.

The result provides a roadmap for directing Nebraska’s future economic development. It helps us better understand Nebraska’s strengths and competitive advantages. It highlights opportunities for better collaboration among schools, colleges and businesses. The study also offers ideas for accelerating innovation in communities across our state.

The report was very good news for Nebraska. Our state has an unusually diverse economy with at least 12 industries positioned for growth. Some of those industries include: renewable energy, transportation-warehousing and logistics companies, hospitality and tourism, food processors, research and development, and the biosciences. Each of these sectors has a connection to Nebraska’s single largest industry: agriculture. The study demonstrates the critical role agriculture plays in our economic strength. Other standouts for our state include financial services-related firms and computer and software service companies.

Three initiatives were identified as key to our future competitiveness in America’s new economy landscape. The first recommendation is aimed at providing tailored support to encourage development of our growing industries.

The study found that virtually every county in Nebraska has potential for development in the field of hospitality and tourism. One possibility for stimulating new development in this growing industry is to establish a new state park to provide recreation and expanded lodging options for visitors to the central and western parts of our state.

Developing a strong talent pool and connecting talented professionals and recent graduates with high-skill jobs in Nebraska is another strategy for helping advance Nebraska’s strategic growth.

The report recommends developing a paid internship program to help employers recruit and train future staff. Using a portion of our existing job training funds to partner with businesses in establishing a statewide internship program would help employers recruit and train future staff, particularly in specialized fields. Internships provide college-age students with experience and job training. A statewide program could help connect many of our future graduates with jobs at Nebraska’s highly-skilled and fast-growing companies.

The final set of recommendations involves supporting the innovation and expansion of Nebraska companies. One way to assist Nebraska’s growth-oriented companies is to create an angel investment tax credit to attract new investment to innovative start-up ventures or companies ready to expand. This could help entrepreneurs raise the capital they need while providing an incentive for individuals and venture capital firms that invest in Nebraska’s innovators.

Nebraska is fortunate to have so many industries that are strong and that contribute to our economy. It means our opportunities for growth are very diverse. Our challenge is to focus on attracting more specialized and advanced companies within these clusters.

This report provided a comprehensive survey we can use in our efforts to continue building an economy focused on technology and innovation. The feedback we received was positive and will be useful as we begin to develop and implement new proposals.