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Nebraska’s current program to incent employers to locate or expand in Nebraska will expire in 2020.

With a record of bringing more than 850 business expansions to our state, 100,000 new jobs and $30 billion in capital investment since 1987 -- under both LB775 and the Nebraska Advantage Act, according to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development -- Nebraska cannot afford to be without a program. We must keep our “open for business” sign illuminated.

That’s why I, along with 20 colleagues, am sponsoring LB720, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. The bill certainly builds on the success of past incentive programs and modernizes the system to meet the state’s evolving needs for the next 10 years.

LB720 was based on an in-depth study for the Legislature’s Economic Development Taskforce, with collaboration among front-line economic developers, the Departments of Revenue and Economic Development and chambers of commerce across the state. The study identified four principles that must be addressed in the next update to Nebraska’s economic incentives program: simplicity, transparency, integrity and competitiveness.

The ImagiNE Nebraska Act brings these additional tools to help grow our economy and our communities.

* The program better accommodates the diversity of businesses seeking to locate or expand in Nebraska, with five qualification levels tailored to the needs of both large and small communities.

* The revised program helps address Nebraska’s workforce shortage by allowing businesses to access tax credits in the form of loans for training and recruitment and further incentivizes higher-wage jobs.

* It gives the applicants, state officials and residents greater transparency and accountability by requiring more detailed certifications upfront rather than when tax credits are used and requiring annual legislative reports.

* It increases the value of Nebraska’s primary economic development program to would-be investors or employers, by simplifying the process and speeding up access to the benefits.

One of the most important elements of previous programs will continue – ImagiNE Nebraska will remain a “pay-for-performance” program, meaning no tax credits until jobs are created or investments are made.

Having sat across from CEOs, working to woo them to Seward County, I know ImagiNE Nebraska will give our economic development professionals across the state better tools to close a deal.

At a time in Nebraska when 63 of Nebraska’s 93 counties saw population loss between 2010 and 2016, when the increasing cost of state services is overburdening our residents with taxes, we must not cut back on our work to grow our economy, grow jobs and grow our population.

I look forward to discussing this priority with my colleagues on the floor of the Legislature this week.

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Sen. Mark Kolterman represents District 24 -- which includes Polk, Seward and York counties -- in the Nebraska Legislature. He lives in Seward.

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