The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its economic development partners Tuesday unveiled an ambitious plan to grow the state, expand opportunities and strengthen its competitive position for the future.
While there would be a new focus on innovation and technology, it would not be at the expense of Nebraska's established economic base, supporters promised, and new development would have a statewide focus.
"Everybody has to win in Nebraska," state chamber President Bryan Slone said, noting that he hails from western Nebraska. Slone grew up in a number of small towns in the state and is a graduate of Gering High School.
Gov. Pete Ricketts, who participated in the kickoff at an event in Lincoln, hailed the report as "a blueprint for our future growth."
Incoming University of Nebraska Interim President Susan Fritz described the plan as "a great broad commitment to increasing the economic vitality of the state and a game-changer" for the future of Nebraska.
Ricketts and outgoing NU President Hank Bounds were the catalysts for developing the "Blueprint Nebraska" plan, Slone said. Former state Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion is managing the effort as executive director.
"We propose to reimagine and connect our places by generating a cost-of-living advantage, increasing social and civic engagement, and improving transportation and broadband connectivity," the report states.
The study proposes a campaign to attract young people between ages 18 and 34 to the state and "expand our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion."
One recommendation suggests that the state should "revolutionize all educational segments from early childhood to career, making Nebraska the nation's leader in lifelong learning and preparing people for the jobs of the future and prosperous careers in targeted growth sectors."
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Another recommendation proposes creation of more internships and apprenticeships per capita, along with more "customized workforce solutions" than any other state in the Midwest.
The report proposes realignment of Nebraska's tax structure following a nonpartisan study of tax policy "with the goal of maximizing growth and opportunity for all," and it calls for "building a simpler, more efficient and effective government."
If successfully implemented, the proposed initiatives would create 25,000 jobs and add $15,000 to the annual income of every Nebraskan, the report stated, while bringing 43,000 new 18-to-34-year-old residents to the state by 2030.
Nebraska's population growth needs to be "a lot larger" than it is now, Slone said, and the state needs to attract "more startups, innovators and entrepreneurs."
While there is "tremendous economic activity in the state" now, Ricketts said, the report represents "a blueprint for our future growth."
Almost 600 Nebraskans participated in development of the plan, and about 2,000 attended more than 60 events that were held statewide in advance of final preparation of the report, according to Blueprint Nebraska.
"Everyone took off their parochial hats," Slone said.
"This will be a catalyst, a turning point, a big deal," he added.
"I'm confident I'm in the right place at the right time," said Mitch Hunt, a young entrepreneur from Broken Bow.