Growing Nebraska is our vision for our state. Whether it’s new jobs, educational opportunities or regulatory reform, every initiative from my administration is focused on growth. The work we do at the state supports the work of the job creators in the private sector. We work to create a business-friendly climate that supports the job creators who are the economic engine of Nebraska.
The numbers show that Nebraska is growing. The latest U.S. Census report in December showed that Nebraska's population exceeded 1.9 million residents for the first time. Nebraska is growing at a faster pace than 32 other states nationally, including our neighboring states Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Wyoming. Those people are also attracting new investments. Recently, Nebraska won the Governor’s Cup for national economic development success for 101 new capital investment projects. This was the most per capita of any state in 2016.
This year, Nebraska continues to see signs of growth. In March, Nebraska notched our 13th consecutive month of 1 million non-farm jobs. Nebraska ranks sixth-best in the nation for our low unemployment rate, and sixth-highest in the nation for our workforce participation rate. Over the past few months, Nebraska has seen significant new investments from several companies. Here are a few examples:
• In April, we welcomed Facebook to Silicon Prairie with the announcement of their Papillion campus. Last fall, I traveled to Menlo Park, California, to their headquarters to pitch them on building their next data center in Nebraska.
• Kawasaki announced its first aerostructures production line in the United States with a $12.5 million investment at its Lincoln plant. This investment follows a 2015 trade mission I led to Japan where I visited Kawasaki to thank them for their investment in Nebraska.
• Novozymes unveiled a new $36 Million investment in their Blair plant following a trade mission I led to Denmark in 2015 where I encouraged them to consider making additional investment in Nebraska and our growing biofuels industry.
• Becton Dickinson announced a $100 million investment in their Holdrege facility to expand manufacturing capacity and a $60 million investment in Columbus.
• Cargill invested $111 million to convert its Columbus plant to a cooked meats operation, which is doubling the employment and size of their plant.
Another great development occurred recently for Nebraska beef, our state’s No. 1 industry. Over the past two years, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and I have been supporting efforts to reopen the Chinese beef market to Nebraska beef, which has been closed for years. In 2016, we led a trade mission to China to share the story of beef from Nebraska with potential customers in anticipation of the market re-opening. In 2015, we visited Beijing to urge the Chinese government to reopen the Chinese market to American beef. Last year, I visited with then candidate Donald J. Trump about the importance of the Chinese beef market to our state, and he pledged to make it a priority as president. This month, American and Chinese officials struck a deal that will allow American beef into China for the first time since 2003. Reopening the China market was a team effort not only involving state officials, but numerous commodity organizations, U.S. embassy staff, federal trade representatives and a host of other partners.
Trade has been such an essential part of growing Nebraska, and that’s why I continue to lead trade missions around the world. This fall, I will be returning to Japan for my second trade mission. Japan is Nebraska’s third-largest trading partner and largest direct foreign investor. The trade mission delegation will be attending the 49th Annual U.S. Midwest-Japan Association Conference in Tokyo as well as traveling to Shizuoka, Osaka and Kobe to meet with potential investors and promote Nebraska’s ag commodities. If you’re interested in joining the trade mission, please visit http://nediplomats.com/2017-trade-mission/ for more information.
These are just a few of the many announcements and investments that are helping to grow our state. I’m excited about our opportunities and will continue to do everything I can to promote and grow Nebraska.