LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts hosted a first-of-its-kind Governor’s Summit on Economic Development in Lincoln to unveil a report on Nebraska’s economic development programming. A diverse group of over 400 Nebraskans from across the state attended the inaugural summit including business leaders, economic development executives, and elected officials among numerous others.
“This first ever economic development summit in Nebraska provided a tremendous amount of information and baseline recommendations to help the state and our partners develop new growth strategies,” said Governor Ricketts. “These strategies can help us attract and grow companies and high-paying jobs so Nebraska continues to succeed in a global, high-tech economy.”
The summit focused on results generated by SRI International, a nonprofit, independent research center that was hired late last year to provide an assessment of Nebraska’s economic development ecosystem. SRI also performed a high-level assessment of Nebraska’s innovation ecosystem and identified gaps and opportunities that the state can target for future investment. Additionally, several sessions were conducted at the summit, focusing on findings related to the state’s target industries, housing and community development, innovation eco-system, and workforce, and talent.
“We are fortunate to be able to look at this research while the state’s economy is performing well,” said DED Director Courtney Dentlinger. “It provides us a great opportunity to put in place the programs and initiatives we need to attract and grow the high tech, high growth companies that provide high skilled, high pay jobs.”
In their analysis of the state’s clusters, SRI identified strengths in the areas of agriculture, food processing, and agricultural machinery sectors. Research also showed the state’s urban areas are attracting more prospects in the following areas: skill and technology-intensive services and research; maintaining strengths in materials and non-agricultural machinery; and automotive and transportation equipment.
SRI also reviewed the Nebraska Advantage tax incentive program. The incentives were found to be well-suited to help larger, well-established firms with large investments and expansion projects. They found that the program could be strengthened to meet the needs of high-growth, high-technology firms that offer good-paying jobs. These kinds of companies are considered critical to attracting the high-skilled talent states and cities need to compete in the high-tech, global economy.
Recommended changes to Nebraska Advantage included the following: distributing credits on a pay-as-you-perform system, which would make earned credits more accessible to businesses while they are making strategic investments; basing performance measures on independent sources of data; creating more discretionary funding based on rigorous Return On Investment estimates; restricting tax credits to new jobs that pay wages at or above county median wages; offering increased incentives for new jobs that pay more than 200 percent of a county’s median wages; and making tax credits available for follow-on investments that yield increased pay to employees.
In the area of workforce gaps, the study highlighted Nebraska’s low unemployment rate and high workforce participation rate. This can create challenges for companies seeking talent to fill open positions and planning for positions needed for future expansion and growth. Nebraska’s workforce is well-educated, and the high participation rate indicates a strong work ethic. Nebraska, however, faces shortages of information technology workers and other STEM graduates needed for high pay, fast growth occupations. Nebraska also needs to continue to address acute shortages of workers in skilled trades needed for manufacturers and companies in the building trades.
Recommendations for workforce solutions included the following: increasing internship opportunities; shorter training courses and educational tracks; and further evaluation of initiatives to provide Nebraska students and faculty with more applied research and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Over lunch, keynote speaker Julie Curtin, executive vice president and partner at Development Counsellors International, spoke about her approach to building integrated marketing campaigns as it encompasses marketing communities for investment, talent attraction, branding, and harnessing the power of social and digital media for communities. Curtin praised DED’s efforts to build a new talent portal for the State of Nebraska.
To access the final SRI report, go to www.negovsummit.com.