The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Forrest Hershberger
Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

State Chamber Reps Address State Issues

 

August 31, 2018

Forrest Hershberger

Owen Palm, left, and Cheyenne County Tourism Director Kevin Howard speak following Wednesday's meeting on Blueprint Nebraska held in Sidney. Palm is the President and CEO of 21st Century Holdings (Scottsbluff) and co-chair of Blueprint Nebraska.

Sidney is facing a challenge, an uphill battle some would say, of finding work for all of the available workforce in the county, a blossoming workforce idled by no choice of their own.

Sidney is unique because many other communities in Nebraska are desperately seeking employees for the jobs they have open.

That is according to Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce.

"We represent all businesses in the state," Slone said. "Our job is to focus on all businesses in Nebraska."

Slone said one of the issues facing the state is the level of taxation, particularly property taxes and income taxes. He said finding a work-ready workforce is also one of the top four issues. He said the state has at least 55,000 jobs that can't be filled. He said the cure to the taxation is population growth. Population growth comes by housing and by a quality of life that draws people to a community.

"We've got businesses that would grow 10, 20 30 percent but they can't find the workers," he said.

He went on to say some of the issues are federal, not just state. Slone said the state chamber of commerce works with the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He talked about several bills that came before the Legislature in 2018 including one that prevented a $226 million income tax increase and another that prevented a personal property increase. One bill addresses the housing shortage and another addresses Internet service in rural areas.

He said the big picture is the economy is changing. He said in a few years, the agricultural community will not have more farmers, but there will be more companies supporting farming. He added there will be an increase in GPS guided farming also.

"Nebraska is at a crossroads," Slone said.

He said part of the future is reconnecting the youth with the business community. He recalled when he was young, knowing and respecting most of the business owners. That is a connection often lost to the recent generation, according to Slone.

"We have to do a really good job with the K-12 population. We can't afford to lose them," he said.

Slone then introduced State Sen. Jim Smith as the executive director of Blueprint Nebraska. Blueprint Nebraska is an effort to gather feedback from Nebraskans and for the Blueprint Nebraska team members will visit dozens of communities and events across the state, reaching every economic development region.

He said the state having a positive future depends on all of the state working together. He added Nebraska needs to also do a competitive analysis of Nebraska compared to other states as far away as Texas.

He said the State needs to work with the private sector, and the effort needs to be transparent.

"We cannot be seen in any way of working behind closed doors," Smith said.

He said Blueprint Nebraska is a long range plan that must be actionable, not left on the shelf.

Smith and Slone encourage people to complete an online survey at blueprint-Nebraska.org.

 

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