Diving into Nebraska’s challenges | Opinion


Nebraska is experiencing terrific growth. We’ve seen big success creating jobs, cutting taxes, and attracting investment to our state.

This week, I’m hosting Nebraska’s Ag and Economic Development Summit in Kearney. The Summit convenes key leaders from across the state to discuss how to build on our strong momentum. Over the course of the Summit, we’ll dive into the challenges and opportunities we face as a state. Some topics are familiar: developing our workforce, opening new markets for Nebraska’s exports, and growing value-added agriculture. Others are newer, such as dealing with the supply chain issues that have disrupted the flow of commerce over the past year.

Our state’s growth over the past year has been truly remarkable. Nebraska has enjoyed 12 consecutive months of record-high employment. There are now 24,700 more Nebraskans employed in our workforce than there were before the pandemic began. Manufacturing employment in Nebraska is at its highest point in over 14 years.

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While generating jobs, we’ve successfully controlled state spending to deliver tax relief. Over the past eight years, we’ve dramatically reduced the rate of state spending growth — limiting it to 2.8% annually.

The changes to our tax code also make us more competitive for businesses looking for places to grow. This year, we’ve already seen major investments in communities across Nebraska. Here are just some of the examples:

• January: Ag Processing announced it will build a major soybean processing plant in David City with capacity to process over 50 million bushels per year.

• February: Norfolk Crush unveiled plans to build a $375 million soybean crushing plant near Norfolk that will process 38.5 million bushels per year.

• March: Preferred Popcorn began production at a 123,000 square foot facility in Waco. The company is a key driver of our nation-leading popcorn production.

• April: Google announced a $750 million investment in Papillion/Omaha.

• May, 3M announced a $58 million expansion in Valley to bolster manufacturing of respiratory and hearing protection products.

• June: Duncan Aviation held a groundbreaking ceremony for its $38 million expansion in Lincoln. The project is expected to create up to 75 jobs.

• July: Monolith Materials announced $300+ million of private investment as it scales up production at its existing facility in Hallam, constructs another plant to manufacture carbon-free ammonia, and develops new technologies.

• August: Last week, Clean Harbors said it expects to spend over $50 million in Kimball this year as part of a $180 million investment to double its capacity to incinerate waste materials in Nebraska. The expansion is creating 100 full-time jobs.

As established businesses grow in Nebraska, entrepreneurship is also strong. Last year, Nebraska attracted an all-time high of $317.6 million in venture capital. That more than doubled our state’s previous high of $153 million in 2018.

Small businesses are growing in the Good Life, too. We’ve worked to help our Main Street businesses access the infrastructure and workforce they need to thrive. We’re building rural broadband in Nebraska to expand access to high-speed Internet.

These investments are helping our small businesses succeed. In its latest Small Business Empowerment Report, Amazon reported that Nebraska vendors who sell through Amazon’s online store have had the fastest year-over-year retail growth in the nation at 60%. In federal fiscal year 2021, Nebraska’s lending institutions helped the Small Business Administration break its previous record of regular program loans in Nebraska at $244 million.

Our state’s largest industry, agriculture, has been the engine of Nebraska’s growth. Our beef exports for 2021—at $1.81 billion—surpassed our previous annual high by 25%. Our top crops had great years in 2021, too. We set records for both soybean and corn production with 1.85 billion bushels of corn and 351 million bushels of soybeans.

With all of this growth, Nebraska is shattering records for State revenue receipts. State revenues exceeded projections by over 30% last fiscal year, bringing in $1.47 billion more than expected. The State’s rainy day fund is at an all-time high of $1.69 billion. This sets up the next Legislature to build on the historic tax relief we delivered to Nebraskans in 2022.

By pulling together as a state, we’ve powered through floods, wildfires, and a global pandemic with one of the strongest and most resilient economies in the country. As we hold our Summit this week, I want to thank our state’s ag and economic development leaders for their dedication to growing the Good Life. They personally contact industry leaders to encourage investment in Nebraska. They host business prospects and international trade officials. They provide hospitality at Husker Harvest Days to showcase our world-class agricultural equipment and technology. They tell Nebraska’s story on trade missions. They’re our greatest ambassadors. And we wouldn’t be enjoying the growth we’ve seen without their tireless work.

If you have questions about the State’s work to support Nebraska agriculture and spur economic growth, please contact me.

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