AP NEWS

Blueprint Nebraska report being finalized

May 16, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — Blueprint Nebraska, a plan to pursue a strong economic vision for all industry sectors of the state, should be ready for review in early July.

Co-Chair Owen Palm with 21st Century Holdings in Scottsbluff said the group has raised almost $300,000 from greater Nebraska to support the research going into the report.

“A management consulting firm is helping us compile the data and assemble the completed document,” Palm said. “We’re also in the early stages of talking about how the plan can be implemented as we go forward and how the Blueprint Nebraska group can help make that possible.”

Blueprint Nebraska was organized in April 2018 as a citizen-led, statewide economic development group to be a catalyst for gathering perspectives from people across the state on the strengths, weaknesses and challenges facing our economic future.

When the group’s formation was announced, Gov. Pete Ricketts said, “We can’t be a healthy state if we’re only growing in Lincoln and Omaha.”

The governor got on board with the plan as soon as he heard about it from Hank Bounds, president of the University of Nebraska System. Before moving to Nebraska, Bounds helped implement a similar program in Mississippi that generated thousands of high-paying, long-lasting jobs.

The mission of Blueprint Nebraska is to identify leaders from the state’s major industries in a sustained drive to grow our economy, increase our competitiveness and deliver opportunities where all the state’s population can prosper.

An online survey was posted last year to gather citizen input on the challenges and opportunities in several focus areas, each represented by an industry council. They include agriculture, banking and finance, community vitality, education attainment, energy and natural resources, entrepreneurship, healthcare, housing, leadership, diversity and inclusion, manufacturing, mega-sites for future development, military and veterans’ affairs, taxation and incentives, technology and innovation, transportation, and workforce.

The community survey generated 4,839 respondents, 30% of which were millennials, typically age 20-38. Another 36% identified themselves as business owners or senior leaders.

The need for a larger, more skilled workforce was a major concern in all areas of the survey. While respondents said good jobs were part of the solution, recruiting and retaining a quality, skilled workforce was also vital.

Another key issue for participants was assuring that young people received high quality educations that lead to jobs that not only provide careers, but also strengthen the state’s economy.

Palm said a major focus in upcoming discussions about the survey will be on developing the state’s agricultural economy, as well as our manufacturing and housing sectors.

“There will also be a lot of discussion about pre-K through K-12 education from the STEM side (science, technology, engineering and math) to the apprenticeship side,” Palm said. “The overall cost of government at all levels will also be a topic for discussion.”

Once the Blueprint Nebraska Community Survey report is compiled, representatives plan to host public meetings across the state to get feedback on how the recommendations can be implemented into workable solutions.