Central Nebraska is moving ahead with an impressive new initiative to boost its in-formation technology workforce and, for the long term, promote local tech startups.

A coalition linking local, state and federal governments and private industry has begun TechHire Nebraska. Its ambitious goal: training, hiring and placing 500 entry-level IT professionals in the Kearney area by 2020.

The focus will be on training candidates and getting them into jobs quickly, with training to last 90 to 120 days. A special effort will be made to offer training to low-income residents, minorities and those with limited formal education.

TechHire Nebraska builds on investments that Xpanxion, a software development firm founded by Loup City native Paul Eurek, has made in the Kearney area. Xpanxion recently announced a $3 million project to build two 10,000-square-foot office buildings at a Kearney tech park.

Under plans for TechHire Nebraska, once a pilot program is completed and analyzed, the training initiative will extend to other companies and partners. In a third phase, a business incubator will be created where TechHire participants can develop tech startups.

This effort is in line with other forward-looking economic development steps in central Nebraska. Examples include the Aurora Technology Center, which has been supported by generous help from Microsoft Corp., and Grand Island's Career Pathways Institute, in which local businesses collaborate with school systems to give high school students state-of-the-art technical training.

The economic development ventures underway in Kearney and elsewhere in central Nebraska are smart investments in the future. Such community vision deserves applause.

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