Experience in other states shows that tech-related industries can be a powerful source of economic growth and good-paying jobs, with significant appeal for young people. Nebraska has a crucial need to strengthen its tech sector. New initiatives, such as the Nebraska Tech Collaborative, offer encouragement.
The collaborative, initiated by the Aksarben Foundation, is a partnership of business leaders and others from across the state to boost Nebraska’s number of high-tech workers. The need is great. Nebraska ranked 40th in “advanced industries” in science, math and technology fields, a 2016 Brookings Institution study said. Each year the state loses a net of about 2,000 college-educated men and women, age 25 and older. Only nine other states do worse than Nebraska in that regard.
Committees with the Nebraska Tech Collaborative are working on important goals: Working with K-12 and higher education to nurture the long-term supply of tech workers. Boosting the recruitment of women and minorities in the tech sector. Creating more internships. Helping career-changers and veterans move into tech fields. Recruiting workers from other states.
Such work complements the first-year goals of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, which aims to attract 10,000 new-to-market tech workers and strengthen opportunities for 10,000 local tech workers who are underemployed or unemployed.
The chambers of commerce for Omaha and Lincoln have a made smart move by jointly marketing themselves as a regional tech hub. The outreach initiative, with the slogan “Opt In,” targets tech workers in Chicago, Detroit, Denver and Sioux Falls, S.D. The chambers intend to add Kansas City.
Although it should be no surprise that tech-sector economic opportunities in states such as Texas, Massachusetts and North Carolina pull in large numbers of recruits, Nebraska can build its own successes by capitalizing on its own areas of tech-sector strength. Such specialties include sports technology, high-tech agriculture, bioscience and biotechnology.
The vision shown by Hudl, the Lincoln-based sports-technology company, has brought it tremendous success, as shown by the construction of its seven-story, $25 million headquarters in downtown Lincoln two years ago. Nebraska is home to agriculture technology companies including software firms iNet Solutions Group and GrainBridge Corp. and livestock technology firm Quantified Ag. Blair has an impressive bioscience complex.
Medical technology also offers opportunities in Nebraska, as shown by the success of Virtual Incision Corp., a medical device company founded by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineer and a surgeon at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
In addition, career academies across the state link schools to local businesses. Students at UNL’s Raikes School of Computer Science and Management regularly move on to strong career choices. Low- and moderate-income students are receiving aid to study computer coding at Metropolitan Community College, which has made major investment in tech-related training facilities.
Through these and other efforts, Nebraska has promising opportunities to bolster its competitiveness and growth through greater high-tech success.