Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts

A statewide team of business leaders and other heavy hitters intends to attack Nebraska’s economic problems and maximize its strengths, and it will describe its intentions within a few weeks.

Under the label “Blueprint Nebraska,” leaders including Gov. Pete Ricketts and University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds expect to work on a sweeping set of issues. They include innovation and entrepreneurship, workforce and brain drain, taxes and incentives, arts and culture, infrastructure such as roads, and many other things.

Bounds was involved in a similar effort in Mississippi before he came to Nebraska three years ago.

Bounds deferred to others Friday. But he has frequently said the state needs a solid plan for economic growth.

Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the group plans to unveil the initiative within a few weeks.

“It’s meant to be a pretty comprehensive look at building the economic future of the state,” Slone said. “The idea is to really create a collaboration across the state.”

They will review studies that have been done related to the state’s economy and workforce, and examine which states compete with Nebraska and how they are doing. A key goal of the program is to improve Nebraska’s competitiveness when it comes to business and industry.

Slone said they hope to make a statewide tour to promote the project and to listen to Nebraskans’ ideas and concerns.

An early draft of the plan says Ricketts, Bounds and chamber of commerce leaders selected members of a steering committee. The committee, led by Union Pacific Corp. Chairman Lance Fritz and 21st Century Holdings President Owen Palm of Scottsbluff, appears to include about 20 people.

Mike Flood, an attorney and broadcaster from Norfolk, said he is pleased to see “the state’s top leaders working hand-in-hand” on these matters. Flood is a member of the panel.

Ricketts and Bounds have been on opposite sides of discussions over the state’s funding of higher education. “I would say that Gov. Ricketts and President Bounds collaborating with the business community is a bright spot” of the initiative, Flood said.

Members of the group met about a week ago at the governor’s residence in Lincoln. They have had at least one other large meeting by conference call.

Flood said he is eager to see Blueprint Nebraska address some of the problems of rural communities, such as declining population.

According to an early draft of the plan, a partial list of the steering committee includes First National Bank of Omaha Chairman Clark Lauritzen; David Graff, CEO of Hudl, in Lincoln; Jerry Adams, CEO of Adams Land & Cattle in Broken Bow; Hod Kosman, chairman of Platte Valley Companies in Scottsbluff; Kim Russel, president of Bryan Health System in Lincoln; Leslie Andersen, president of the Bank of Bennington; and T.R. Raimondo, chairman of Behlen Manufacturing in Columbus.

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rick.ruggles@owh.com, 402-444-1123


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