COLUMBUS — Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts stopped in Columbus on Monday to meet with local business leaders and discuss his plan to grow the state’s manufacturing sector.

The 49-year-old former chief operating officer at Ameritrade took part in a business roundtable at Duo Lift Manufacturing attended by more than 30 local manufacturing representatives.

Ricketts, who won a six-man race for the Republican nomination during the May 13 primary election, continues to focus his campaign on improving the state’s economy, with an emphasis on the agriculture and manufacturing industries.

In March, the Omaha businessman unveiled an ag plan aimed at reducing property taxes, protecting the state’s water resources and boosting value-added products and exports.

During his Columbus stop, Ricketts, who last week named Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann, a farmer from Elk Creek, as his running mate, outlined a vision to advance the state’s manufacturing industry that includes many of the same principles included in his ag plan.

Ricketts said the state must adopt “common-sense” regulations that allow Nebraska businesses to thrive.

He also supports entitlement reform and a restructured tax system that provides property and income tax relief for Nebraskans.

Ricketts, who also made a stop in Albion on Monday to tour an ethanol plant and attend a business luncheon, said these issues must be addressed at the state level to spur economic growth and allow companies to expand across Nebraska.

The Republican said this growth is necessary to keep younger residents in Nebraska and attract workers from other states.

“All of those things will be part of a bigger strategic plan for how do we create more and better-paying jobs in the state,” said Ricketts.

Education also plays an important role in Ricketts’ plan.

He said the state must work with school districts to improve the vocational and technical training offered to students and expose them to the career opportunities available here.

The current shortfall of skilled workers to fill machinist, electrician, welding and other positions is preventing some manufacturers from expanding, according to Ricketts, whose plan also outlines steps to improve the state’s work force and economic development efforts.

He pointed to Grand Island’s Career Pathways Institute as a model other communities can follow to establish public-private partnerships that address this work force shortage.

The Career Pathways Institute was created through a collaborative effort between Grand Island Public Schools, local manufacturers and Central Community College.

Columbus Public Schools’ plan to build a $49.9 million high school near the intersection of 33rd Avenue and Lost Creek Parkway includes adding a STEM academy to prepare students for careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Ricketts, a pro-life conservative, also believes the state must develop a diverse, reliable energy mix, which includes increasing the availability of natural gas and adding more wind-generated power.

If elected, he plans to work with the Nebraska Department of Roads to prioritize roads projects and push for long-term funding options to beef up this infrastructure without taking on debt.

Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, said his business experience will serve as an asset as he continues to develop his plan to grow Nebraska.

“It’s going to be a lot of things we have to do well to be able to grow the state,” he said. “There’s not going to be one single thing that solves all of our problems.”

Democrat Chuck Hassebrook will face Ricketts in the November general election.

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