Building a New Rural Economy in Nebraska
Center for Rural Affairs
The decisions the Legislature and the Governor make in the coming days may determine the fate and future of rural Nebraska.
The Legislature has before it a comprehensive, common-sense and cost-effective rural economic development package to help ensure a viable and sustainable future. They need only to act.
Four bills and provisions in the Governor’s proposed budget fit together to create this new rural policy model. They are not – as some Senators have stated – disparate measures with no common purpose. They are all pieces of a comprehensive rural revitalization package advanced by the Governor’s appointed Nebraska Rural Development Commission.
LB 273, the Building Entrepreneurial Communities Act, and LB 28, the Endow Nebraska Act, will mobilize communities and public and private resources to begin planning economic development within and between communities.
LB 71 would provide grants for farmer and rancher-owned cooperatives, and LB 309 would provide tax relief to small business owners and an incentive for those seeking to start and grow small businesses.
In rural Nebraska, opportunities come from entrepreneurship, specifically small businesses and value-added agriculture. During the 1990s, over 70 percent of job growth in rural Nebraska came from small, non-agricultural businesses. Currently nearly one-in-three private, non-farm jobs in rural Nebraska come from small businesses with five or fewer employees.
Together, these proposals and bills would cost the state about $6 million. This represents less than FOUR percent of what the state currently spends on tax incentives for big business expansion and recruitment.
The future of rural Nebraska is surely worth that.
Rural Nebraskans should not be fooled by the messages from the Legislature about a lack of funds and the need for a comprehensive rural economic development policy.
The time for study is past.
It is time to act.