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Editorial: Optimism found in selection of new Greater Omaha Chamber leader

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A thriving business community that continuously attracts economic development of all sizes is essential to a city’s growth and future sustainability. It also takes proven leaders to help move a city forward.

With this in mind, we are optimistic about the selection of the Greater Omaha Chamber’s new CEO, Veta Jeffery.

An economic developer from the St. Louis area, Jeffery said she was attracted to Omaha by the proven ability of the city’s civic and corporate sectors to work together to move the city forward. She replaces David Brown, who is retiring after nearly 20 years in the job.

Veta Jeffery

Jeffery

To say she has her work cut out for her may be a bit of an understatement.

Her hiring comes at a critical time in the city’s history and development. Omaha, like all other cities across the country, is competing for workers amid a severe nationwide labor shortage. In addition, the city is in the process of remaking its downtown and urban core in an effort to attract and keep more young workers. And the state has just appropriated more than $300 million that’s targeted for redevelopment of underserved communities, particularly North and South Omaha.

We’re confident that, in her new position, Jeffery can handle these challenges. She brings to the job the unique experience of helping rebuild Ferguson, Missouri, after civil unrest sparked in 2014 by the police shooting in Ferguson of an unarmed 18-year-old Black man.

Chambers of commerce, not just in Omaha but around the country as well, have historically not been particularly diverse in their leadership. Notably, Jeffery is also the first woman of color hired to lead the chamber, coming at a time when Omaha business leaders are emphasizing the need for the city to embrace diversity and inclusion to attract and retain the workers needed to spur future growth.

While Jeffery’s hiring could be viewed as an example of business leaders’ commitment to diversity, chamber officials also made it clear Jeffery was simply the best person for the job.

“Our committee was 100% unanimous that Veta was the right choice,” said Mogens Bay, the retired CEO of Valmont. “She stood out from the other candidates, and we found her to be very thoughtful, very committed and just impressive during every step of the search process.”

Admirably, Jeffery said she hopes her hiring does matter to young people, who might be encouraged to aspire for something more.

“It says Omaha values what all people bring to the table,” Jeffery said. “And it gives us an opportunity to showcase that here.”

We believe Jeffery brings much to the Omaha area and we are eager to see her in action.

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