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First in the nation for fiscal condition according to George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. Second best for regulatory environment by Forbes’ measure and second best for cost of doing business in CNBC’s rankings. Third best in the nation for wage growth. Fourth best for workforce participation. And the fifth on Forbes’ “Best States for Business” list.

These rankings reflect Nebraska’s pro-growth climate, which continues to lead the nation in new investment, job creation, and business expansions. This week, Nebraska won Site Selection Magazine’s Governor’s Cup for the most economic development projects per capita of any state in the nation – for the third year in a row!

This recognition by Site Selection Magazine is great news for Nebraska. Site Selection Magazine is a top-tier economic development publication with a readership that makes decisions about where new investments are made. These projects help to create jobs and grow our communities. The Site Selection award is based on projects that include:

• A minimum capital investment of $1 million;

• 20 or more new jobs created; or

• 20,000 or more square feet of new space.

In 2016, Nebraska had 101 such projects, and 110 in 2017. We improved on those performances with 118 in 2018. For the third year in a row, we had more projects than North Dakota, South Dakota, and Kansas combined!

We cannot let up now if we are going to keep growing Nebraska in 2019. To do so, we are working on our four pillars of prosperity: Developing our people, running government like a business, cutting taxes, and promoting Nebraska. Here’s a few highlights from our recent efforts.

We have been working to develop our people in many ways. I will highlight two new initiatives here. Last week, I joined CLAAS Omaha and Graepel to launch the first two ICATT apprenticeship programs in Nebraska. These are great opportunities that will help Nebraskans take great careers that allow them to earn an income while learning new skills. The second initiative is called Nebraska Talent Scholarships. It’s a legislative proposal that, if approved, will provide 2,100 scholarships in targeted majors to connect Nebraskans to high-paying careers. We are targeting fields where businesses have many open jobs including math, engineering, healthcare, computer information systems, and agriculture among others.

Over the past couple years, we have been working to run state government more like a business by making it more effective, more efficient, and more customer-focused. We’ve already merged various agencies to better serve our veterans and to deliver a 21st-century transportation system. This legislative session, I have been working with Senators to move three inspection programs from the Department of Labor to the Fire Marshal to better align with their public safety focus. The Legislature and I are also working to bring together the Energy Office and Department of Environmental Quality to form a more unified vision and strategic plan for our work in these related areas.

Property tax relief is another key to growing our state. Right now, I have two major proposals in the Legislature that will help control spending and give direct relief. The first proposal is LR 8 CA from Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, a constitutional amendment to cap property tax increases by local governments. Since 1980, property taxes have increased on average at the rate of five percent annually. Right now, there is no limit on how much your property taxes can go up each year. LR 8 CA would fix that. The second proposal is LB 303 from Senator Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, which ensures that Nebraska’s property owners receive at least $275 million of relief annually through the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund. This relief would bring the amount of direct property tax relief to nearly double what Nebraskans were receiving five years ago.

Finally, we are promoting Nebraska to build markets for our quality products and attract new investment. Just a few weeks ago, I returned from a trade mission to Mexico where we focused on strengthening our connections with businesses that are active in Nebraska and relationships with Mexican public officials. This was my second trade mission to Mexico. Over the years, I have also led trade missions to Canada, Japan twice, China twice, and the European Union. This year, I plan to lead two more missions, which will be announced at a later date.

While Nebraska keeps winning national awards, we should not take this for granted. The success of our third Governor’s Cup award is a reflection of the team spirit Nebraskans take when growing our state. Most importantly, these investments mean great job opportunities for our state. If you have suggestions on how we can grow Nebraska, please email me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244.

Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.

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