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UNO centers drive, measure economic impact across Nebraska amid pandemic
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UNO centers drive, measure economic impact across Nebraska amid pandemic

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The College of Public Affairs and Community Service at the University of Nebraska at Omaha houses the Center for Public Affairs Research, the lead agency of the Nebraska State Data Center program.

As the state grappled with challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nebraska businesses and public officials received much needed data, resources and support from the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) and the Center for Public Affairs Research, both housed at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

NBDC is based at UNO’s Mammel Hall but extends across the state through 10 additional locations from Wayne to Scottsbluff. It strengthens Nebraska businesses for a healthy economy and prosperous communities. NBDC’s credentialed consultants provide confidential, one-on-one business services to entrepreneurs, established business owners, innovators, and economic and community development professionals — mostly at no charge.

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The Nebraska Business Development Center operates ten offices across the state in addition to its main location within UNO’s College of Business Administration at Mammel Hall in Omaha.

In 2020 alone, NBDC continued to serve more than 1,800 clients across the state, creating and saving nearly 700 jobs and generating $488.2 million in total statewide economic impact.

“NBDC’s support of businesses across Nebraska predates the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue long after the pandemic is behind us,” Catherine Lang, NBDC State Director said. “Through the collaboration and assistance of government, community and university partners, we are able to supply resources that foster economically healthy and prosperous communities while also providing UNO students with valuable experiential learning opportunities.”

UNO’s Center for Public Affairs Research (CPAR) has also played a significant role in tracking the pandemic’s impact on Nebraska’s businesses and their workforce.

CPAR partnered with the State of Nebraska and a number of local and state organizations to conduct the Nebraska Business Response Survey which explored how Nebraska businesses responded to the pandemic. Most respondents were small businesses that reported negative impacts on revenue, an increase in remote working operations, reductions in staffing, need for aid and rising concerns about shifts in consumer behavior.

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Local and national experts brief attendees on data trends relating to Nebraska’s economy, demographics, and finances at the 30th Annual Nebraska Data Users Conference held at UNO in 2019. The conference was held virtually in 2020 and will be held as a virtual series in 2021.

CPAR continues to work jointly with the Planning Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature to track the pandemic’s economic impact on the state through the Nebraska Economic Recovery Dashboard. The dashboard hosts over 20 indicators to track the economy. For instance, it shows steep declines in employment early in the pandemic followed by steady gains; however, Nebraska employment is still off from pre-pandemic levels.

Using the dashboard, legislators, business owners and key stakeholders can track indicators that allow for both comprehensive and granular analyses, including unemployment claims, total employment and net tax receipts.

Josie Schafer, CPAR Director, said these tools are invaluable to the state’s response to COVID-19. “Effectively addressing challenges presented by the pandemic starts with having a better understanding of the problems businesses are facing,” Schafer said. “The Nebraska Business Response Survey and the Nebraska Economic Recovery Dashboard provide needed evidence of where the state is, where it has been, and where it is going — allowing public officials and business owners to make informed decisions.”

Additional information on how NBDC and CPAR at UNO have supported the Nebraska economy in the pandemic can be found at impact.unomaha.edu.

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