Last week saw more good news for the state of Nebraska on the success of our new economic development initiatives.
The Beacon Hill Institute ranked Nebraska sixth in the nation in their State Competitiveness Report for 2011.
The Institute’s report based its rankings of the states by examining state policies in several areas. The overall ranking combines 44 economic indicators in eight categories. These categories include: 1. Government and fiscal policy, 2. Security, 3. Infrastructure, 4. Human resources, 5. Technology, 6. Business incubation, 7. Openness and 8. Environmental policy.
We ranked particularly well in the infrastructure, human resources and security subindexes.
I think that’s a testament to the great people and excellent workforce that we have in Nebraska. It speaks very highly for our K-12 public schools and our public and private institutions of postsecondary education.
It also reflects positively on the measures we’ve taken to improve our roads and telecommunications with the Build Nebraska Act and other infrastructure improvements. Our affordable power rates, low housing costs and short commute times were also highlighted as elements that led to our high rating.
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There were a few areas that we can improve upon (percent of high-tech employment, venture capital per capita, incoming foreign direct investment per capita, patents per 100,000 inhabitants).
All of these will be addressed by our recently enacted Talent and Innovation Initiative — 2012 legislation will also advance our standing with incentives for workforce training, research and development promotion and medical research initiatives.
Our No. 6 overall ranking is a 10 spot improvement from just two years ago. The Legislature and Gov. Heineman have partnered well to identify key areas for growth and enacted legislation that enhances the possibilities for our state to take advantage of new economic opportunities.
The Appropriations Committee offered their mid-biennium state budget adjustment recommendation last week. The nine-member committee identified several areas for action.
Health and human services programs, including child care assistance, child welfare services, developmental disability services and medical provider reimbursement rates, were recommended for increases.
The Governor’s Emergency Program, which permits quick responses to natural disasters like the Missouri River flooding, tornado damage, excessive drought damage and wildfires, would be replenished under their plan.
Three University of Nebraska initiatives were recommended by the committee for approval. The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s new cancer research facility, expansion and improvements to the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s Allied Health program and a new Veterinary Diagnostic Center at the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources were included in the recommendation.
The 40 other members of the Legislature have the opportunity to weigh in on the mid-biennium adjustments in the upcoming days. Passage of a balanced state budget is our foremost obligation as senators. We take this responsibility very seriously. The remainder of the legislative session will be spent on deciding where to best focus our resources to improve our state within limited resources.
I’d like to alert Dodge County residents who use U.S. Highway 77 south of the Platte River that the Nebraska Department of Roads issued a news release on March 9 to announce upcoming improvements to the Otoe Creek Bridge north of Nebraska 64. This bridge replacement project is scheduled to begin on March 26, weather permitting, and is anticipated to be completed this fall. Motorists will be detoured onto Nebraska 109 between Wahoo and its junction just south of Fremont. The Department and contractor MMC LLC thank you for your patience as they undertake this improvement project.
Charlie Janssen represents the 15th District in the Nebraska Legislature. He can be reached at District 15, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509, 402-471-2625; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.