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Governor's Cup tour

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks about the Governor's Cup awarded by Site Selection magazine while at GeneSeek earlier this month.

As Gov. Pete Ricketts celebrated Nebraska's economic development success Wednesday, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Bryan Slone joined in the accolades while focusing on the need to enact a new business development tax incentives program early next year.

"The state has done a great job and I commend the governor for what clearly is a success in terms of the amount of economic development projects," Slone said during a telephone interview.  

"It's very important to keep the momentum going now," he said.

And that directs the spotlight upon the legislative session that will convene in January with a modernized business tax incentive bill awaiting action after being stalled earlier this year when its fate was directly tied to substantial property tax relief.

"The earlier in the session, the better," Slone said.

The Nebraska Advantage tax incentive program expires at the end of 2020, and businesses and developers are watching as they plan a year or two ahead, he said.

Ricketts kicked off his fourth annual Nebraska Economic Development Summit with a summary of recent successes that have spread statewide and earned Nebraska its third straight Governor's Cup, presented annually to the state with the most economic development projects per capita by Site Selection magazine.

A record crowd of 450 attended Wednesday's event, which featured a luncheon address by Gallup chairman and CEO Jim Clifton.

Nebraska is focused on efforts to develop its workforce, the governor said.

"The world is dynamic and we have to keep up," he said.

Ricketts said he'll continue to "go out and sell our products" during trade missions, with Vietnam and Germany on his upcoming travel schedule.

Slone said he believes "Nebraska is as well-positioned as it's ever been in my lifetime to attract companies, workers and employees to the state."

Quality of life, cost of living, land and water resources are all factors that help Nebraska succeed, he said. And that means all of the state, not just Omaha and Lincoln, Slone said. 

"What I like about the new (tax incentives) plan is that it simplifies much of the administrative process and shortens the time period when businesses qualify for incentives and receive benefits," he said.

"It's a more streamlined process," he added.

The Legislature's Revenue Committee already has signaled plans to package its new tax reform proposal with legislation to enact new business tax incentives for presentation to the 2020 Legislature in its opening days.

But there is some disagreement within the committee as to whether that package should be fashioned into a single bill.  

"I do think incentives can pass without tying them together this year," Slone said. "But we'll be working with all senators in also taking a look at property tax alternatives."

Looking beyond 2020, Slone said he believes the Legislature needs to "take a look at larger structural reforms of the tax system to make it more competitive nationally."

That would include "a hard look at potentially broadening the tax base" while fashioning a tax system that is "attractive to young, skilled workers," he said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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