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Midlands Voices: New incentives proposal will benefit the whole state

Midlands Voices: New incentives proposal will benefit the whole state

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The writer is president of the Nebraska Economic Developers Association. This essay expresses the view of the association’s board of directors.

Every day, we sit across the table with potential new business owners making the case that Nebraska is the best place to invest, grow and find talent.

Whether in our communities or on domestic or international trade missions, we are the state’s frontline sales people. The Nebraska Economic Developers Association (NEDA) represents more than 200 economic developers from 75 different communities across the state. We have helped attract billions in investments and thousands of jobs to Nebraska. We know what we need to compete — an incentive package that will help attract high-paying, high-skill jobs for our next generation of economic growth. Letting one of our best economic development tools expire with no replacement is not an option. We need the ImagiNE Nebraska Act.

Economic development professionals in every state and nation are competing for the companies that bring greater prosperity for their residents. Until you’ve watched opportunities locate in our border states due to competitive incentives and favorable tax structures, it’s tough to form an opinion on the purpose, value and return on investment for economic incentives.

Before discussing the important enhancements in Legislative Bill 720, let’s revisit the success of economic incentive programs in Nebraska thus far.

» Incentive dollars are awarded only as companies deliver on their promises and the economy grows. Proudly, ImagiNE Nebraska continues to be a pay-for-performance program. No benefits until the full number of jobs are created or capital investment is complete.

» Economic incentive programs show exceptional return on investment for the state and communities. Since 1987, economic incentives have created nearly 110,000 new jobs and attracted $35 billion in qualified investment in Nebraska. The state’s investment has been very worthwhile for the individuals who sought those jobs, advanced in their careers and were able to provide more opportunities for their families. Since Nebraska Advantage was passed in 2006, jobs created by companies using the program had wages 25% higher than the state average.

Last year, research from Blueprint Nebraska showed the state received a 24% return on investment from companies receiving credits under Nebraska Advantage. That’s $1.24 in state tax revenue for every incentive dollar claimed.

» Incentives benefit the entire economy. Many of the companies that use economic incentives are tied directly to our agricultural economy. They purchase our agricultural products, produce equipment and technology used across the globe, and transport our products across North America.

» Growing the economy still takes a lot of humanity. These companies are current and future corporate citizens. They hire local people, invest, buy goods and services, pay taxes that support local schools and government, donate to charity and encourage volunteerism.

LB 720 will make Nebraska more competitive and our practitioners more successful. NEDA members have been actively engaged in modernizing the state’s mainline economic incentive program. Here’s what excites us most in the ImagiNE Nebraska Act:

» Employers can use benefits to support workforce training, talent recruitment and child care programs.

» Higher-paying, high-skilled jobs are rewarded at higher rates.

» Investments in extremely blighted areas are also rewarded at higher rates.

» Projects that support our strong and emerging sectors (including agribusiness) are prioritized.

» Smaller communities, businesses, manufacturers and startups can take advantage of the program better with jobs and investment thresholds targeted specifically for areas outside of Omaha and Lincoln.

» A streamlined, simpler program encourages applications, offering greater opportunities for participating organizations and increasing transparency and accountability.

As economic developers, we are eager to put this package to work in our communities. We must not threaten our forward momentum with a workforce crisis looming on our doorstep.

Good jobs help attract and retain great Nebraskans. We all agree that recruiting families to the Good Life will carry us through the economic and demographic shifts on the horizon. Let’s work together to imagine our economic possibilities and pass ImagiNE Nebraska.

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