It's 2040 and Greater Omaha has emerged as one of America’s great next-generation regions. We’re a technology leader, a voice on the global stage, a region where all residents can get their foot on a rung of the prosperity ladder and climb as high as their ambition and abilities take them.
Such is the vision of Greater Omaha 2040, a Strategic 4Sight (“S4S”) initiative launched in 2017 by the Greater Omaha Chamber, United Way of the Midlands and Urban League of Nebraska to identify the area’s most critical trends and plausible futures.
From leaders to young professionals, from students to grandparents, this community has remarkably high expectations for what Greater Omaha can become. Its residents want to be involved in shaping that future.
In 2003, when I arrived in Omaha, the Greater Omaha Chamber was poised for change. Leadership was calling for a more robust economic development effort — an approach that would move the region toward a greater share of capital investment and jobs.
An intentional vision emerged — a vision for tripling the Chamber’s efforts, a vision that meant being aggressive, targeted, creative and focused. This strategy also meant setting high standards, accomplishing goals and rapidly growing the economy.
Then, and now, it was clear the area’s public and private leadership were committed to continuous improvement, and community leaders talked about the future with passion, fueling an attitude of collaboration, collegiality and forward momentum. That attitude ignited a powerful outcome: growth.
In the past 15 years, the Chamber has expanded its regional partnerships from one to six, presenting a variety of sites in urban areas, suburban locations and expanded rural locales. We have become increasingly more targeted in our effort to attract high value-added jobs. We are more engaged than ever in entrepreneurship. We have aggressively involved ourselves in international trade and direct foreign investment. We have a dynamic talent development/attraction/retention initiative that was not in place prior to 2003.
We’ve acquired and developed sites for business and industry, and have engaged in a collection of projects that have transformed Omaha — projects that have included north Omaha, South Omaha, north downtown and more. All have ushered in amenities and growth that have improved the quality of life here.
Add to that an extensive branding strategy — the “We Don’t Coast” campaign — that’s shaping our culture and driving accomplishments throughout the region.
These collective achievements emerge as both foundation and springboard for Greater Omaha 2040.
As a community catalyst, backed by 125 years of accomplishment, the Greater Omaha Chamber is as energized as ever about what’s next, and we are ready to work collaboratively — and tirelessly — to execute strategies to accomplish the Strategic 4Sight initiative. Here, a glimpse of the future we enthusiastically invite and invent, together.
Greater Omaha 2040
What’s ahead: an overview
It’s 2040 and Greater Omaha is known for its cultural diversity, and the private, public and civic sector commitment to innovation, entrepreneurship and excellence. The region is a high-growth/high-tech economy, a net importer of talent that has amassed an impressive record of “best places” accolades.
The area is recognized as a place that treasures each individual, so businesses attract the talent they need. The regional economy is robust and growing, with an aggressive startup scene and a diverse collection of internationally recognized businesses, small and mid-size businesses and corporate headquarters — all of which recognize ethical practices as drivers of profit.
Business leaders, elected officials, social service and philanthropic leaders regularly collaborate and utilize virtual reality tools to develop and test effective solutions to community challenges, ensuring a seamless delivery system of services to those in need.
By 2040, Greater Omaha continues as a region on the rise, a region that is a technology leader, a region that is heard on the global stage.
We foresee a thriving regional economy in 2040. Our GDP growth rate has doubled, and Greater Omaha leads at turning innovation into business success.
The keys to accomplishing this? Collaboration and capitalizing on an intentional, strategic outcome: quality over quantity. That means focusing our efforts to recruit and retain businesses that create significant wage, investment and job growth; boosting our startup ecosystem and creating a more diverse and inclusive economy.
By 2040, we are a region where every resident — natives and newcomers alike — can get their foot on a rung of the prosperity ladder and climb as high as their ambition and abilities take them. We will be a region of 1.3 million people; a place where everyone thrives.
Led by jobs in high-growth sectors, as well as our growing collection of corporate headquarters and tech startups, the region will attract top talent for top employers, a paramount priority for the past 20 years.
We will be a place where the region’s brightest and best choose to live and work, and the world’s best talent comes to live and work.
To accomplish this, we start with high expectations at the preschool level, and continue to facilitate exceptional educational experiences for every child in the region. Every child experiences several career paths through his or her education journey and every school, college and university targets education offerings that support the state’s high growth and high wage job environment.
By 2040, the quality of the communities in our region will be known around the world. Looking forward, with our eyes on excellence, innovation and accessibility in all developments, our region will be recognized as one of the most inspirational places in the country. We will be a model for community ingenuity and a place where our senses demonstrate our innovation and demand for excellence every day.
The author is president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber. This essay originally appeared in The World-Herald’s 2018 Outlook special section.