New strategy convenes leaders to design and implement collaborative economic development projects

Today, the Governor’s Office, Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED), and Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry held a press conference in Lincoln prior to the inaugural meeting of 6 Regions, One Nebraska in the Southeast Community College region.

The initiative is convening leaders in each of Nebraska’s six community college districtsto design and implement collaborative, regional economic development projects. 

“This regional approach makes perfect sense,” said Lieutenant Governor Joe Kelly. “We need neighboring communities competing on the same team to advance the state, not competing against one another. We can’t do it alone; we need each other to move the state forward.”

At the request of Governor Pillen, the Nebraska Legislature allocated $3 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds to DED this year to fund the regional effort. The State’s financial investment, supplemented by private dollars, is helping to establish a core work team in each region. DED-administered grant funding is also supporting research on the workforce, housing, childcare, and educational resources within each region. Dr. Josie Schafer, director of the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska Omaha, is leading the research initiative and presenting data to each regional team.

“6 Regions, One Nebraska is a new approach to economic development,” said DED Director K.C. Belitz. “It’s community-directed, action-oriented, and partnership-driven. The regional initiative is being guided by the ideas and insights of area leaders; the State is simply helping to facilitate. Each regional team is committed to completing a joint project that will deliver concrete, near-term benefits to their communities.”

The State’s financial investment will provide financial incentive for regional projects in one of the following areas:

  • Resident Recruitment
  • Youth Engagement
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Technology
  • Infrastructure
  • Selected Regional Project

“Our state has a rich heritage of leaders stepping up to serve their communities,” said Marc LeBaron, CEO of Lincoln Industries. “6 Regions, One Nebraska is an opportunity to carry on this tradition. I look forward to cooperating with like-minded leaders who share my commitment to growing Nebraska. By joining forces, we’ll accomplish more than we ever could on our own.”

Each regional team is meeting twice annually for work sessions. The biannual gatherings will include a presentation of data to inform regional decision-making. Each region will also conduct asset mapping to identify the strengths it can draw on to drive growth.

“In Seward County, our communities have teamed up to achieve major success in areas like housing development,” said Jonathan Jank, President & CEO of Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership and co-chair of the Southeast regional team. “I look forward to replicating this spirit of partnership on a regional level. Southeast Nebraska is blessed with exceptional talent and thriving communities. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish by pooling our resources to benefit the entire region.”

The goal of the 6 Regions, One Nebraska initiative is to catalyze cooperation among communities so that regional partnerships become the norm for how Nebraska pursues economic development.

“It’s crazy to see how much Nebraska is growing, and we have amazing opportunities to build on this momentum,” said Tara Lea, Vice President of Community Affairs for the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce. “To make the most of this moment, we need each other. It will take all hands on deck to attract new residents, solve housing shortages, and add childcare capacity. Together, I’m confident we have the ingenuity and tenacity to succeed.”

The Southeast Community College region is the second area of the state to launch 6 Regions, One Nebraska. The Mid-Plains Community College region held its initial meeting on May 14th.

Today’s work session was hosted by Southeast Community College at its Lincoln Campus. Nebraska’s community colleges are key members of 6 Regions, One Nebraska.

“Southeast Community College is equipped with the facilities, technology, and educators to train a world-class workforce for our region,” said Dr. Paul Illich, President of SCC. “We enjoy strong relationships with employers throughout the region, and we look forward to even greater connectedness with area communities through 6 Regions, One Nebraska. Thank you to Governor Pillen for investing in Southeast Nebraska to help create great career opportunities for our students.”