Lincoln's skyline

Gov. Pete Ricketts recently met with representatives from a Fortune 500 company interested in expanding in Lincoln, the governor said Tuesday.

Ricketts did not name the company, but said the meeting took place in late spring.

"There were certainly advocates within the company who thought Lincoln was an outstanding place to be able to hire people," he said.

Should the company choose Lincoln, its move could bring 200 to 300 jobs to the area, said Pat Haverty, vice president of the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development.

Assurity CEO Tom Henning broke the news at a press conference in the governor's office Tuesday morning, and officials touted an employment milestone Nebraska reached last year: topping an average 1 million nonfarm jobs statewide for the first time.

"We are growing our state," Ricketts said. "There's a lot of hard work going on by a lot of people across the state to do that."

The governor was joined by Henning, the state Labor and Economic Development directors and representatives from major Nebraska employers Marriott and Hudl, who spoke about what keeps their businesses here.

"We need to highlight the fact that this is a good place to grow businesses," said Economic Development Director Courtney Dentlinger.

Five companies with headquarters in Nebraska, all based in Omaha, were listed on Forbes magazine's latest Fortune 500 list: Berkshire Hathaway, Union Pacific, Peter Kiewit Sons', Mutual of Omaha Insurance and ConAgra, which announced it was moving its headquarters to Chicago late last year.

Henning said conversations with the firm eyeing Lincoln are ongoing, and a decision could take months. He didn't say which other communities the company is considering.

Representatives from the company also met with local employers to talk about workforce and other issues, said Haverty.

Workforce was a major focus of Tuesday's news conference, as well.

John Wirtz, co-founder of Hudl, said job candidates are drawn by Lincoln's cost of living, atmosphere and amenities, along with the ability to choose between downtown activity and the rural quiet of surrounding areas.

Ricketts also unveiled a video touting Nebraska's first-in-the-nation "re-employment" plan, which Marriott Hotels began using last year to identify workers for its new team of home-based customer service representatives in Columbus. 

The video features Jacquie Smith, a mother of five who struggled to keep working while caring for her medically troubled son. She connected with Marriott after visiting a Labor Department career center.

"I wasn't really sure where to start," she said Tuesday. "I went into the career center and immediately felt that glimmer of hope."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com. On Twitter @zachami.


Assistant city editor

Zach Pluhacek is an assistant city editor.

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