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Nebraska business leaders discuss economic development plan

December 20, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska’s labor shortage was one of the main concerns raised at events held by a business group seeking public input on a statewide economic development plan.

Blueprint Nebraska held a series of town halls this week in Omaha, Lincoln and Norfolk where business and civic leaders focused on the region’s low unemployment rate and the difficulty of finding workers, The Omaha World-Herald reported . The group has hosted similar events in Gering and North Platte.

“We’re trying to get our arms around this talent challenge,” said David Brown, president of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. “There literally aren’t enough bodies to do the work that needs done.”

Municipalities need to have competitive career opportunities, as well as amenities and services to attract employees and their families, Brown said. Employers may also need to be willing to increase pay in order to be competitive, he said.

Attendees raised concerns about the need for public transportation to lure top talent who desire an urban experience but at a more affordable price than what’s available on the country’s coasts.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said the city has been in talks with private development partners about potential transportation improvements, including light rail, rapid-transit buses and driverless vehicles.

“Not just a streetcar,” she said. “It’s not one thing or another. It’s not bus rapid transit or fill your potholes. It’s all of it.”

Participants also discussed how to improve affordable housing, child care and the education system.

Former Westside Superintendent Ken Bird is leading a committee for Blueprint Nebraska on education and training. He said educators and businesses may need to get creative to find funding for education and training. School districts may also need to consider reevaluating how they spend limited funds, he said.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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