State chamber introduces Blueprint Nebraska to the public

Kristen Hassebrook, Executive Vice Presidenrt for Legislation and Policy with the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, listens as U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith (left) visits with Chamber President Bryan Slone.

SCOTTSBLUFF — Members of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry stopped in Scottsbluff as part of its fall forums across the state to unveil the completed Blueprint Nebraska report.

“The key difficulty in getting some of this proposed legislation passed for Nebraska is finding the continuity between east and central, north and south, urban and rural,” said Gering native Bryan Slone, president of the state Chamber. “Our mission is to move economic policy to businesses not just in Lincoln, but to all areas of the state. That’s how things are going to get done.”

He said the completed Blueprint Nebraska is a roadmap to lead the state toward being competitive with other states — and that requires unity of purpose.

Over the past year, Blueprint Nebraska gathered feedback from 2,000 residents and leaders from across the state. The report also included input from almost 5,000 people via online survey and 320 advisors representing a number of different geographic areas in various industry segments.

“Nebraska really is a fantastic place and we do have the good life,” said Blueprint Nebraska Executive Director Jim Smith. “As you transition from one generation to another, you need to hold on to what is great and look toward what needs to be done to make it better.”

Of the 4,839 respondents to the online survey, 30% of them were millennials, typically ages 20-38. Nearly 36% of respondents identified themselves as business owners and senior leaders.

“As we traveled the state over the past 18 months, we learned we have to leverage people, land and location for our future success,” Smith said. “We need to build on our robust agricultural economy and because of our location; we’re a natural business hub for the country.”

Some of the troubling economic signals Smith pointed out were the state’s negative migration, with more people leaving the state than moving in. There are only about four business sectors where the state outpaces the rest of the country. The state is lagging in research and development investment, as well as entrepreneurial startups and survival rates.

Smith said the state could also do more to improve its productivity, which allow for more business investment and more employees with higher wages.

Blueprint Nebraska is a long-range plan but lays down several aspirational goals to work toward. They include overall job growth, quality of life, growth of population in the 18-34 age range and cost of living.

“We have to have customized workforce solutions for companies that are seeking to expand in Nebraska and also for those looking for a home for their business,” Smith said. “We want to build a brand around choosing Nebraska as a welcoming place for people and businesses that are looking for a home.”

Smith said if we’re going to expand our economy across the state, we need to bring great cultural life into our lesser populated communities.

“Arts and entertainment shouldn’t be for just Lincoln and Omaha, but for every community. It’s one of the anchor points to hold on to our younger generation.”

Those were just a few of the areas from Blueprint Nebraska that Smith talked about. Now that the roadmap is in place, the long-term challenge is to implement the report’s recommendations into building a better future for Nebraska.

The public is invited to inspect the report online at blueprint-nebraska.org.

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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