Proudly showing off two pieces of hardware, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts stopped in Blair on Monday to thank some of the workers and companies who helped the state secure back-to-back trophies for investments made in economic development.
The visit to Evonik was the second stop on the governor's thank you tour, which kicked off at Legacy Post and Beam in Fremont and also included stops in South Sioux City on Monday afternoon and Lincoln, Grand Island and Holdrege on Tuesday.
In March, Ricketts accepted Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cup for the second straight year. The award recognizes states that have demonstrated the most outstanding economic development achievements over the past year. Nebraska received the Cup for having the most capital investment projects per capita in the nation in 2017.
Among those projects is the construction of a $200 million facility to make omega-3 oil from natural marine algae on the biocampus in Blair. During his stop in Blair, Ricketts learned more about the project during presentations from Neil Leinginger, Veramaris general manager, and Hans-Joachim Schleff, Green Ocean project manager.
Veramaris is a joint venture between Evonik Industries and Royal DSM. The facility will enable, for the first time, the production of omega-3 fatty acids for animal nutrition without using fish oil from wild-caught fish.
Paul Caldwell, site manager for Evonik, also shared background of the company with Ricketts.
Evonik manufactures Biolys, a form of L-Lysine used to produce feed additives for swine and poultry animal nutrition. The Blair site consists of one fermentation production plant and two downstream processing plants with a warehouse and laboratories. The new Veramaris facility is expected to be operational in 2019.
Following the presentations, Ricketts was given a tour of the plant, speaking with many of the workers. Along the way, he learned about control room and micro lab operations and saw some of the mechanics of the operation. He also saw progress on construction of the Veramaris plant.
Following the tour, he and Evonik and Veramaris employees posed for photos with the governor's cups, before joining them for lunch.
Ricketts said he was glad to be able to join the workers to celebrate the projects they have going on and the "great work" already being done with Evonik.
"It's because of the investments here that you helped Nebraska win the governor's cup for the most economic development projects, per capita, of any state in the country for last year," he said, noting not only that statistic, but the fact that the number of projects in Nebraska outnumbers those of North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas combined.
"We are really excited about that because what that means is when companies are making that investment here in our state, it's creating the job opportunities that allow people like you to be able to take care of their families, their kids' school, go on that family vacation and enjoy the good life here in Nebraska,” he said.
In addition to the governor's cup award, national publications and media outlets have recognized Nebraska for being the second-lowest state for cost of doing business, the third-highest wage growth of of any state since 2004; the fourth-best state overall for business; the fifth-lowest unemployment rate; and the sixth-most fiscally-stable state.
He said all that fits with his Grow Nebraska vision, which includes creating more, and better paying jobs and keeping young people in the state, as well as attracting people from around the country and the world to make Nebraska their home.
He noted that many people at Evonik and Veramaris have relocated from other areas.
"That's what we want," Ricketts said. "We want more people coming here to find their careers and make sure our Nebraska folks find the careers they want here in our state as well."
In wrapping up his remarks, the governor gave copies of Site Selection magazine that featured the governor's cup to Leinginger and Caldwell.