LINCOLN — When native Californian Ryan Spaulding was preparing to end his service as an Air Force pilot, he looked across the country for a place to raise his family where local values matched those he prized in the military.
He said he didn't see values like trust, loyalty and camaraderie everywhere in Berkeley, where he grew up.
Spaulding was seeking a place where your handshake was your word, the schools were strong and the crime rates were low.
“I think I found that in Nebraska,” said the 47-year-old, who works at an electronics testing lab in Lincoln. “It was kind of an easy sell.”
Officials in Nebraska are hoping to find more Ryan Spauldings.
On Tuesday, Gov. Dave Heineman unveiled a new recruiting video titled, “Nebraska Is Hiring Our Heroes,” that he hopes will convince other military veterans to move to the Cornhusker State to fill job openings and boost the state's population.
The video, produced by the Nebraska Department of Labor at a cost of $6,000, features Spaulding and three other veterans promoting the benefits of settling in Nebraska.
While Nebraska is among several states that have held job fairs for veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, state officials said they were unaware of any other state that was actively recruiting them to relocate.
While it's not unusual for employees at Offutt Air Force Base to remain in the area after retirement, the new effort is aimed at younger, mobile veterans willing to move for a well-paying job.
Heineman, a former Army Ranger, said Nebraska has many job openings that fit the skill sets of military veterans. He mentioned welding, a job that can pay $60,000 a year.
The recruitment effort could help boost the state's population, the governor said.
Nebraska's population growth, while small, has exceeded the national average two of the past three years.
“I'm after every American who wants to find a good job. They should move to Nebraska,” Heineman said at a Tuesday press conference.
Spaulding, a married father of two and a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve, said it helped that his wife's family is from Omaha and he had relatives in Kansas. But he said he believes Nebraska is a great place to raise a family.
“Lincoln provides an environment that promotes education, and the values I see that lead to good citizenship,” he said.
Currently, Nebraska is helping about 8,000 local veterans and family members find jobs and prepare résumés, according to Cathy Lang, who heads the State Departments of Labor and Economic Development.
Nebraska, in a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is conducting a series of “Hiring Our Heroes” job fairs. About 600 veterans and 200 employers have participated in the three job fairs held so far.
The new video is available on YouTube and through websites for the governor, the state and the Labor Department. It also will be distributed through veterans support groups.
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