The writer is president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
Looking to the future. Resolving to make history. I can think of no better way to kick-start a brand-new year.
On Jan. 3, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce leaders joined the governors of Nebraska and Iowa and other local dignitaries in celebrating the launch of an unprecedented collaboration between Nebraska and Iowa — the formation of a two-state, regional economic development partnership.
Why did the Greater Omaha Chamber and the already successful Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership agree to this bold expansion, and why should you care? The answers are intertwined.
The Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership began more than 20 years ago to create jobs, encourage capital investment and drive growth of the region’s economy. Until recently, this one-stop center for economic development combined the economic development organizations of Douglas, Cass, Washington, Dodge and Sarpy Counties in Nebraska. The partnership grew into a two-state endeavor on Jan. 3, when it officially welcomed Advance Southwest Iowa Corp., a public-private partnership of the City of Council Bluffs, Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce, Iowa West Foundation, Pottawattamie County and the Western Iowa Development Association.
Why did we choose to expand from one state to two, and what is in it for you? Here is where it gets very exciting for me.
First and foremost, we firmly believe that we accomplish more together and that partnership can fuel opportunity and prosperity throughout the southeast Nebraska-southwest Iowa region — not just for some but for all.
Additionally, we believe that collaboration with neighboring communities is vital in this increasingly global, competitive landscape. Third, we know from experience that our partnership grows stronger with the addition of each new partner that shares our common goals.
The bottom line? We are confident our expansion into a two-state partnership will encourage an even more robust regional economy that promotes a higher quality of life for those who live, work and raise families here. In other words, for you, your family and friends.
Some may be asking, “How does adding communities from another state benefit an already successful Nebraska regional economic development model?”
It is a valid question, and here is the answer: This is a regional economy, and economic growth benefits the entire region.
This unique two-state, multi- county coalition allows us to better leverage our region’s many assets and offer prospective companies and clients a wider range of location, talent, investment and incentive options. Partnership staff, backed by more than 200 years of combined economic development experience, can then work with the client to determine which options best meet their needs.
In short, we are enhancing our regional appeal by adding more available sites, buildings and quality-of-life choices for inquiring companies. Equally important, we are reinforcing the notion that the Greater Omaha brand does not stop at the state line.
We applaud Govs. Dave Heineman and Terry Branstad for sharing this view, for their deep commitment to this endeavor and for putting the greater good of the region above other considerations.
Does this collaborative approach work? Since 2004, our multi-county partnership has driven economic growth for the region by successfully landing 460 projects, representing 24,194 jobs and more than $4.7 billion in capital investment. Some of our most recognized successes include the attraction and expansion of national and international companies such as Cargill, Gallup, Hyatt, PayPal, Yahoo! and TD Ameritrade.
Last December, J. Mac Holladay, CEO of Market Street Services, a nationally recognized provider of strategic economic development planning services, said this new two-state partnership is in a position to break new ground with its joint focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, business retention and expansion, and business and talent recruitment. “No two-state, regional program is working on all three areas,” he said.
We agree wholeheartedly. Our goal is to be the most proactive, professional, responsive and respected metropolitan regional economic development organization in the nation.
Is our vision too bold? Not at all. Given greater Omaha’s abundant resources (from its solid infrastructure and skilled, productive workforce to its enviable, central location), the partnership strongly believes it has a charge to cultivate the region’s extraordinary assets to help all of greater Omaha work, prosper and grow. The addition of Advance Southwest Iowa will help us do just that.
Together, along with regional leadership, let us now look to the future — and resolve to make history — by embracing this enhanced coalition, pushing for its success and striving for a broad metropolitan region that thrives on both sides of the Missouri River.