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Major Changes Coming to Rural Nebraska?

Major, and I mean MAJOR changes are coming to the economic development community in Nebraska. Governor Heineman and the Nebraska Legisltature is proposing massive redeployment and increases in investment in several strategic areas. Proposed changes include (thanks to the Governor’s office for sending this along):

LB 386, the Nebraska Internship Program aims to increase the number of college and university students interning with Nebraska businesses. Funded with $1.5 million annually in redirected job training funds and a 100 percent match from companies creating new internships, the program would provide job experience for juniors and seniors at the state’s four-year institutions or students in their second year at a Nebraska community college.

Grants of up to $3,500 in non-metro areas or $5,000 in metro areas would be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis to companies creating new internship opportunities, with no more than five grant-qualified interns each year at any one business. Internships would pay at least minimum wage and could range from 12 weeks to year-long programs.

LB 387, the Business Innovation Act would provide competitive grants for private sector research at Nebraska institutions, technical assistance in new product development and testing, and help expand small business and entrepreneur outreach efforts. The effort will be paid for with $1.5 million in redirected funds and $5.5 million in new funding.

The proposal would expand Small Business Innovation Research programs, including offering grants for application development, and provide funding to help with prototype development, commercialization, and applied research at Nebraska institutions. Additionally, it would provide assistance for microenterprise projects.

LB 388, the Site & Building Development Fund would increase the number of industrial and commercial sites available and ready for business development using $3 million in redirected resources and at least a one-to-one match from communities. An estimated $1.5 million in annual funding would come from directing a portion of the Real Estate Document Stamp fee paid for projects other than housing development.

Funding could be distributed as grants, loans and credit enhancements to help with demolition, new construction and rehabilitation. State funding would be focused on land and infrastructure costs with 40 percent of funding going to non-metro areas.

LB 389, the Angel Investment Tax Credit would encourage investment in high-tech and other startup enterprises in Nebraska by providing refundable state income tax credits to qualified investors investing in qualified early-stage companies. The program would be capped at $5 million annually, with $3 million coming from redirected funds and $2 million in new funding.

The minimum investment would be $25,000 per year for individuals and $50,000 for investment funds. Eligible small businesses would have fewer than 25 employees, the majority of whom live and work in the state.

NTV has a great report on upcoming legislative changes in statewide economic development policy – specifically to the design of better sites and industrial properties for business expansion and recruitment here.  You can view the video below.

While I am very supportive of the push (change is needed badly) that is coming from the Governor, I do see some gaps for very rural places like Ord and Valley County. States, such as Kansas are addressing issues such as population decline much more directly. I don’t offer this as criticism, rather as a suggestion to tweak legislation to make it more equitable for very rural communities. Governor Brownback of Kansas has proposed an interesting idea aimed at repopulating rural places that are currently facing double digit population declines. The Fort Scott Tribune has the story here.  From the article:

Brownback said he will propose the creation of Rural Opportunity Zones to give tax breaks to people who move to counties that have seen double-digit population declines the past decade. “Unfortunately, there are about 40 counties that qualify for it,” he said in a telephone interview.

Other features of the Rural Opportunity Zones would be a 50-50 state and local match to buy down student loans and a five-year cancellation of state income taxes for five years for individuals moving into those counties from out of state.

What do you think? Will the proposed legislation really make a difference? I think so, and I think this is an exciting time to be in a rural community.

~ Caleb

One Response to “Major Changes Coming to Rural Nebraska?”

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