Study lists 5 economic strengths for Nebraska, saying state is well-positioned for growth

By Margery Beck, AP
Thursday, September 9, 2010

Study: Neb. well-positioned for economic growth

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska has a diverse economy that is positioned well to grow, but the state needs to work on turning its growing research and development into new products, according to a report released Thursday by GOP Gov. Dave Heineman.

Five industries have emerged as Nebraska’s strengths, with growth outpacing national rates: financial services; transportation, warehousing and distribution logistics services; precision metals manufacturing; bioscience; and renewable energy.

However, the state economy also has several areas of weakness, according to the $220,000 report, which was commissioned by the state’s Economic Development and Labor departments.

It said Nebraska’s lack of progress in developing value-added industries leads to lower demand for skills and lower wages. Value-added industries are those that add value to a raw product by taking it to a new stage of production — for example, taking what is traditionally a waste product like wheat stalks and turning them into building materials.

The report also said Nebraska has had trouble translating its growing research and development base into new products and new companies, and that the state should create stronger links between industry and university researchers in areas such as applied research and development, technology commercialization and talent generation.

The report was compiled by nonprofit independent research and development organization Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.

“There’s clearly a good environment for business in Nebraska,” said Simon Tripp, a senior director with Battelle. “Moving forward, the key will be for Nebraska to continue to support programs and initiatives that help industry sustain a competitive edge in the global economy, provide the necessary skilled work force, and support innovation, entrepreneurship and new technology deployment.”

State and local economic development professionals, university and college officials and rural and urban business leaders helped with the study, Heineman said.

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