Chamber Legislative forum

Ron Sedlacek, left, with the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Jim Smith, executive director of Blueprint Nebraska, speak during a legislative forum Wednesday at Memorial Community Hospital and Health System in Blair.

Blair business leaders learned the results of a statewide initiative to create a “road map” for the economic future of the state during a Nebraska State Chamber Legislative Forum on Wednesday at Memorial Community Hospital and Health System.

Jim Smith, executive director of Blueprint Nebraska, provided an outline of the vision, aspirations and initiatives adopted through one of the largest statewide, public input processes on economic growth.

Blueprint Nebraska gathered feedback from 2,000 residents and leaders at more than 60 events across 30 regions of the state and from 5,000 more through a survey.

The initiative, which was headed by a 21-member steering committee and involved more than 320 industry council members, was envisioned by former University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds and Gov. Pete Ricketts.

During the forum, Smith detailed the project's 15 signature initiatives.

To create economic growth, Smith said Nebraska can leverage its people, land and location.

“We've heard that loud and clear, no matter where you go in our state, we have strong, resilient communities,” Smith said. “We are the envy of the world, and certainly of the Midwest, in terms of our work ethic.”

Smith also called the state “a natural business hub” for the country and cited its “strong transportation network.”

Blueprint Nebraska's vision includes five aspirational goals it must meet to realize its vision.

Those goals include jobs, quality of life, young population, income and research and development investment.

Smith cited the growth of the 18- to 34-year-old population, which he called the “lifeblood of any economy,” as a priority.

“Our peer states are certainly competing for that 18-to-34 population. Nebraska has to outperform in that area,” he said. “We need to give them every reason to stay in their community and to reduce and reverse that trend of outmigration from greater Nebraska communities.”

By 2030, the Blueprint Nebraska initiatives strives to:

• Make Nebraska a top-three state to live in according to various national rankings;

• Create 25,000 jobs;

• Grow annual income of Nebraskans by $15,000;

• Add 43,000 18-to-34-year-old residents in Nebraska by 2030; and

• Boost research and development investment by $200 million annually.

Kyle Nixon, general manager of Novozymes in Blair, serves as the chairman of the manufacturing council for Blueprint Nebraska and was pleased with the outcome so far.

“There are a lot of smart people that really care about Nebraska who are involved in this and I like where it's going,” he said.

During the forum, Ron Sedlacek with the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry provided a brief overview of the 2019 legislative session and spoke about legislative initiatives the chamber supported and how those could affect business and industry.

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