By Governor Pete Ricketts
For two years in a row, Nebraska has been number one in the nation for new business investment. A few months ago, Site Selection magazine recognized our achievement by awarding Nebraska our second consecutive Governor’s Cup, an award they give to the state who has the most economic development projects per capita. This week, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and I are traveling to Fremont, Blair, South Sioux City, Lincoln, Grand Island, and Holdrege to say “thank you” to the businesses in Nebraska who helped earn this honor.
It is no accident Nebraska has won the Governor’s Cup. Our communities have worked hard to make themselves the best place in the world to live, work, raise a family, and do business. CNBC says we are second best in the nation for cost of doing business. According to The Washington Post, we have experienced the third highest rate of wage growth in the nation over the last few years. Forbes named Nebraska the fourth best state for business, we have the fifth lowest unemployment rate, and the Mercatus Center rates us as the sixth most fiscally stable. U.S. News and World Report says we are the seventh best state overall – I know we are the best!
As back-to-back national champions in economic development, we are working to build on our successes, so Nebraska continues to grow and we continue to create great opportunities for our families. My team is focused on four keys to growing Nebraska: developing our people, cutting red tape, controlling spending to cut taxes, and promoting Nebraska.
Nebraska’s greatest resource is our people. We are working to develop and retain a quality workforce, and to help connect Nebraskans with great job opportunities. Our first-in-the-nation reemployment program is helping unemployed Nebraskans get back to work more quickly and achieve their career goals. At the same time, we have lowered our unemployment insurance tax, delivering millions of dollars in tax relief to Nebraska’s job creators. The reemployment program has been so successful that families on food stamps are also using it to find better job opportunities, increase their wages by an average of $10,000 per year, and help them reduce their need for public assistance.
We have been making Nebraska a more attractive place for job creators and our working families by cutting red tape. Working with the Legislature, we have cut back on unnecessary job licensing requirements for professions from school bus drivers to cosmetologists. We are delivering licenses for nurses and medication aides more quickly. On the employer side, state agencies are achieving a higher level of service by putting environmental permitting online and reducing the amount of time it takes to turn a permit around.
Tax relief is another key to growing Nebraska. To cut taxes, the state has to control spending. Since taking office, I have worked with the Legislature to reduce the rate of spending growth by over 90 percent, from 6.5 percent to 0.5 percent. This has allowed us to deliver over $840 million in direct relief through the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund, and to increase state aid to K-12 schools. In fact, our most recent budget grows state aid to schools four times faster than the overall rate of state spending. Each year, I have introduced property tax relief proposals, and I am working with my team on new ways to lower property taxes for the upcoming legislative session.
Finally, my team has been working to grow Nebraska by promoting Nebraska and expanding international trade. Over the years, I have visited New York City to promote beef, Silicon Valley to recruit an investment from Facebook, and Seattle to thank Costco for investing in Nebraska. With 95 percent of the world’s customers beyond our borders, there is demand for Nebraska’s quality products around the world. That is why I have led trade missions to Japan twice, China twice, the European Union, Mexico, and Canada. We have had great success through these trade missions. Canada-based Agri-Plastics opened a new facility in Sidney after our trade mission there last year. Novozymes invested $50 million in their facility in Blair following our trade mission to Denmark in 2015. Nebraska exports to countries like Japan have been on the rise, with beef and pork exports to that country increasing by 26 percent and 46 percent last year.
By developing our people, cutting red tape, reducing the tax burden, and expanding trade, we can continue to grow Nebraska for years to come. If you would like to share how you are working to grow your community, I hope you will take time to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2244. Together, we will grow Nebraska for the next generation.