When it comes to weathering the recession, never underestimate the power of stability and non-partisanship. It’s working for Nebraska, which has had its” fair share of hits from the recession,” Joseph Long, legislative director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, told MillionaireCorner.com. “But things are going really well.”
In 2010, Nebraska, the state that brought you Kool-Aid, CliffsNotes, and Warren Buffett, topped MainStreet.com’s Happiness Index, which looks at household income, debt, employment and foreclosures. The Cornhusker ranked 2nd overall in lowest number of foreclosures, the second lowest unemployment rate, and 5th in lowest percentage of non-mortgage debt by income. Also last year, CNBC ranked Nebraska 13th among the best states to do business. The state has the nation’s second lowest unemployment rate (4.2 percent).
Long credits in part the state’s Governor Dave Heineman, who has been in office since 2005, for pre-recession public sector cost-cutting measures such as travel restrictions and overtime restrictions, a “wildly successful” 2006 revamp of the state’s tax incentive programs for business growth, and sticking to his mandates of not raising taxes and “spending money we didn’t have” (the state is constitutionally bound to balance the budget).
The state’s unicameral (one chamber) Legislature recently passed a four-part economic development package, the Talent & Innovation Initiative, which was developed to enhance momentum in Nebraska’s fastest growing industries and others positioned to integrate new technologies. It was designed to increase internship opportunities for college students, promote business innovation, invest in new sites and buildings for commercial development, and encourage investment in Nebraska’s high-tech and start-up businesses.
Nebraska was also sustained by the agriculture sector, which benefited from high commodity prices. There is a huge demand for corn, which is used for the ethanol that the government mandates must be contained in gasoline.
The agricultural sector is tied to businesses in Omaha, which in 2009 was ranked by Forbes as the nation’s fastest-recovering major metropolitan “Omaha’s economy is less dependent on manufacturing than other Midwestern cities,” Forbes noted, “and is boosted by a strong agricultural sector and growing biofuels industry. And while the city has a big stake in the financial industry…it doesn’t specialize in the types of institutions that took big risks and chased exotic financial structures. Instead, it’s home to roughly 30 insurance companies and regional banks like Mutual of Omaha.”
Other industries flourishing in Nebraska, Long said, are data processing, call centers and health care.