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

Together, We've Grown Nebraska


January 5, 2023 | View PDF

Pete Ricketts Governor of Nebraska

Last week, we celebrated the arrival of Nebraska's 2022 Silver Shovel. This prestigious national award recognizes states that have successfully attracted major economic development projects. And it's no coincidence that three out of the four Silver Shovels Nebraska has ever received came in the last four years alone. 

That's because, since 2015, our state government has operated under four pillars aimed at growing Nebraska: To develop our workforce, make it easier to do business in the state, control spending to reduce the tax burden on our families and businesses, and raise our international profile.

Together, we've made real progress in each of these areas. And while awards like the Silver Shovel are recognition of our shared success, what truly matters is the impact these efforts have on our students, workers, families, and communities throughout the state.

Pillar 1: Develop Our Workforce

We've built a talent pipeline to connect Nebraska's graduates with great-paying jobs right here in the Good Life - making good on our goal to tap into and cultivate local talent early on. 

That starts with our Developing Youth Talent Initiative, which has connected 28,000 junior high students with participating businesses across the state to explore careers in manufacturing, IT, and other high-growth industries. Then, once a student moves into high school, they can take advantage of career academies, which are in-school programs offering career-themed courses and hands-on workplace experience. From Sandy Creek to Scottsbluff, schools are creating these academies to enhance students' workplace readiness and give them the opportunity to earn college credits prior to graduation. 

As our youth look to their next step, they have many options to advance their career through our registered apprenticeship programs. Thanks to generous Nebraska businesses, there are more than 4,000 active apprenticeships giving our young men and women a running start when it comes to entering the workforce. 

Finally, whether a student attends a community college, state college, private college, or our University system, our career scholarships help add to the talent pipeline in our state by providing more access to a world-class education for in-demand fields- no matter their family's income or background. 

These programs aimed at developing a skilled workforce are one of the reasons why our labor force participation rate is now at 69.8%, the highest of any state in the nation for 25 consecutive months.

Pillar 2: Make it Easier to do Business in Our State

We've been intentional about creating a climate where businesses, large and small, can thrive. One way we've done this is through our dedication to process improvement. Through our Center of Operational Excellence (COE), we train state teammates to identify waste, eliminate unnecessary steps, and deliver a better customer experience for our taxpayers. 

Since May 2016, the COE has helped facilitate over 900 process improvement projects across 18 agencies, resulting in over 900,000 hours freed up to better serve Nebraska's families and businesses (and saving the taxpayers $100 million along the way).

This has also allowed us to truly put Nebraskans first. People now spend less time waiting in line, filling out forms, and on the phone with government when looking to access needed services. Individuals in South Omaha used to have to wait an average of 29 minutes when in line for drivers license services. Now, they wait only eight. Rural Nebraskans no longer have to take the time to drive to their nearest DMV. They can fully access dozens of services, including license renewals and vehicle registration, online. And financially disadvantaged families caring for children with special needs throughout Nebraska now receive state aid for care-related travel expenses in two business days, as opposed to the 13-15 days it had taken before process improvements from the COE were made.

Pillar 3: Control Spending to Reduce the Tax Burden on Our Families and Businesses

Of course, we can't grow our state without reining in government spending. That's why over the past eight years we've limited annual average spending growth to 2.8%. That's well below Nebraska's annual revenue growth rate, which has averaged about 4.5% over the long-term. This has allowed us to continue to provide top-notch assistance to Nebraskans in need and deliver vital services - from building out broadband and water infrastructure to ensuring public safety -all while still delivering meaningful tax relief. Overall, we've delivered $12.7 billion of tax relief to Nebraskans since 2015.

Pillar 4: Raise Our International Profile

Over 95% of the world's consumers and two thirds of the world's purchasing power lies outside of America's borders. In Nebraska, we've made a commitment to go where those potential customers are by raising our international profile.

Since 2015, we've led trade missions to 11 different countries to forge new partnerships and increase investments in the Good Life. Thanks in part to our state's best ambassadors – the Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and business owners who've come along on those missions - Nebraska's exports have grown from $9.0 billion in 2016 to $13.7 billion last year. That's more than a 50% increase in five years. 

Our trade missions have also helped our Department of Economic Development recruit international investment here from companies like Kawasaki and Novozymes.

The 2022 Silver Shovel Award is an important reminder that what we've done to grow Nebraska has set us apart nationwide. Thank you to everyone who had a hand in winning the Silver Shovel again this year, including Director Tony Goins and our teammates at the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. They have made Nebraska a top-tier state for recruiting businesses and developing our economy. Nebraska now ranks in the top 5 in the nation for new economic development projects per capita-and has every year since 2015. This is up significantly from 2014, when we weren't even in the top 25. 

If you have any questions about our vision to grow Nebraska and the results we have achieved, please call my office at 402-471-2244 or email me at [email protected]


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