LINCOLN — The vision of my administration is to grow Nebraska, and we’ve worked hard throughout 2019 to make that vision a reality. This has been a tough year because of historic floods, but Nebraska has been resilient. We’ve experienced tremendous growth in 2019 by building on four pillars of prosperity: developing our people, cutting red tape, delivering tax relief, and expanding trade opportunities.
In 2019, Nebraska created jobs for working families in industries ranging from manufacturing to technology. Nebraska’s manufacturing employment surpassed 100,000 for the first time since the Great Recession of 2007-2009. I saw the resurgence of Nebraska manufacturing firsthand in October during a tour of our state’s builders and makers. Aulick Industries in Scottsbluff, Allmand in Holdrege, and Becton Dickinson in Columbus are just a few examples of growing manufacturing companies here in Nebraska.
Despite challenges in agriculture over the past year, we have helped to grow major opportunities for our farmers and ranchers. In October, Costco celebrated the grand opening of its poultry operation in Fremont. Costco has partnered with around 100 farm families to build new chicken barns in Nebraska. In addition, corn and soybean growers are supplying the equivalent of 2,000 acres of corn and 2,000 acres of soybeans to Costco’s plant every week.
The incredible tech growth our state experienced in 2019 has reinforced our reputation as the Silicon Prairie. In January, LinkedIn announced a major expansion in Nebraska. In 2007, LinkedIn opened its first office in Omaha with fewer than 10 people. By the time it finishes its current expansion in 2021, the company expects to employ 1,000 people in Omaha.
This year was also a banner year for data centers in Nebraska. In June, Facebook opened a data center campus in Papillion that will exceed $1 billion of investment by the time it’s completed. In August, Compute North broke ground on a new data center in Kearney’s Tech oNE Crossing. In October, Google also broke ground on a major data center—just down the road from Facebook’s location in Sarpy County. In September, Lincoln’s City Council approved initial plans for yet another large data center at a site northwest of the 56th Street exit of Interstate 80.
To equip Nebraskans for these great jobs, we grew our Developing Youth Talent initiative (DYTI) to introduce more Nebraska middle school students to careers in IT, value-added agriculture, and manufacturing. Career academies expanded at high schools from Sandy Creek to Scottsbluff to provide high school students with the opportunity to get college credit while gaining practical workplace skills. At the college level, we’ve increased the number of Registered Apprenticeships 44 percent since 2016 so that students can “earn while they learn” at a local business. Together, these initiatives are creating a talent pipeline of skilled young professionals to grow Nebraska.
Just a few days ago, I met with President Trump and fellow Governors at the White House to share the ways we’ve cut needless, burdensome regulations in order to grow Nebraska. In 2019, we merged the Departments of Environment and Energy to generate efficiencies. We made it easier for Nebraskans to obtain licenses to work in occupations such as appraisers. Our Center of Operational Excellence also worked with state agencies to reduce waste and save time for State teammates and customers.
In addition to cutting red tape, we’ve controlled spending so we can cut taxes to help Nebraskans grow their businesses, create jobs, and invest in their communities. In March, I worked with the Legislature on my third budget, which covers the next two fiscal years. Since I took office, we have reduced the annual growth in state spending from 6.5 percent to less than 2.4 percent over the last three budgets. This allowed us to increase the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund from $140 million, which is where it started when I became Governor, to nearly double at $275 million annually. When Nebraskans receive their property tax statement this month, they will see that the State Tax Credit has gone up by 20 percent year-over-year.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that Nebraska has enjoyed economic growth well above the national average in 2019. State revenues reflect this growth. In October, the state’s forecasting board raised its revenue projection by $266 million, combined, for the current and upcoming fiscal year. With the extra revenues, we’re poised to deliver additional tax relief in 2020.
Finally, I led three trade missions this year to open up new markets for Nebraska products. In February, I led a delegation to Mexico as we pushed for approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Then in September, I visited Vietnam and Japan. Vietnam increased its beef exports 127 percent year-over-year, and our visit helped secure approvals for pending biotech applications for soybean imports. Earlier this month, Japan approved tariff reductions for American beef and pork imports, which is a big win for Nebraska. Finally, our trade mission to Germany in November promoted Nebraska’s ag technology and allowed us to thank German companies investing in Nebraska.
Nebraska’s economy is on an upward trajectory. We have plentiful jobs for graduates and abundant opportunities for businesses to get started and grow in our state. I invite you to share the ways your community has grown in 2019 by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 402-471-2244.
— Governor Pete Ricketts
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