October is Manufacturing Month and the State of Nebraska has something big to celebrate: Job growth. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, employment growth expanded 1.7 percent year-over-year this July for the fastest growth rate since March 2012. The biggest driver behind that growth was employment in the manufacturing industry, which jumped 4.5 percent for the biggest growth rate since August 1995.
Each October we celebrate Manufacturing Month because it is Nebraska’s second largest industry, behind agriculture and ahead of tourism. Throughout the month we will be celebrating our manufacturers, who are making world-class equipment and growing great job opportunities across our state. To highlight manufacturing’s impact on our economy, the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and I will be visiting manufacturing plants in Hastings and Lyons this week. Later this month, I will also address the Chamber’s annual manufacturing summit.
Manufacturing is growing in Nebraska because of the great business climate we have. CNBC rates Nebraska the second best state for cost of doing business. National organizations say we are third best for wage growth, fourth best state overall for business, fifth lowest for unemployment, and the sixth most fiscally stable. All of this has helped Nebraska achieve the distinction of being the top state in the nation for new economic development projects per capita for the last two years in a row. During manufacturing month, we will be carrying this message to communities around the state and I will be highlighting three ways we can grow manufacturing: develop our people, cut red tape, and deliver tax relief.
Developing our people is a key to growing opportunity in manufacturing. Right now, Nebraska has tens of thousands of open jobs, and many of these openings are in manufacturing. My administration has been focused on creating awareness about these opportunities and helping young Nebraskans get skills to take advantage of them. We have launched the Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI), which supports partnerships between local Nebraska businesses and public schools to engage students in manufacturing and information technology career exploration programs. Since its first year, 23 school districts have participated in DYTI, and the program has served around 7,000 students. DYTI metrics from previous grant recipients, such as Flowserve in Hastings, indicate a significant increase in student interest and participation. For example, Hastings High School had a 16 percent increase in enrollment in Skills and Technical Sciences classes from incoming freshman who participated in a full year of DYTI programs in the 8th grade.
Cutting red tape will also unleash growth in manufacturing. Forbes not only ranks Nebraska the fourth best overall state for business, but also the fourth best state for our overall regulatory climate. As Governor, I have been working to make state government run more like a business. To this end, we have trained all 12,000 teammates in my agencies in process improvement skills so each teammate can look for opportunities to deliver better customer service at a lower cost. For example, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has put some air and water permits online, speeding up the process for companies that are building things and making things who need these to do business. For our air construction permits, we have reduced the turnaround time from 188 days to 88 days. In some cases, the agency is now able to deliver permits in a single day. When companies receive their permits faster, they can create jobs more quickly.
Finally, tax relief puts more money back into the pockets of hardworking Nebraskans and those who create job opportunities. Each year I have been Governor, I have made tax relief a priority in my budget recommendations to the Legislature. Over the past few years, the Legislature and I have delivered over $840 million in property tax relief, by increasing the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund. Overall, the State of Nebraska delivered over $2 billion in property tax relief and aid to local governments in the 2017-18 fiscal year, up from $1.9 billion the previous year. This is a big commitment from the state to property taxpayers that I will recommend building upon in my next budget.