Omaha Nebraska

An evening view of the Omaha, Nebraska skyline from the Gene Leahy Mall.

(The Center Square) – November saw another increase in Nebraska's leading economic indicators, the fifth jump in the last six months, a report from the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found.

"The rising indicator suggests that the Nebraska economy will grow through mid-2021," Eric Thompson, an economist and director of the bureau, said.

Five of the six segments of the principal indicators advanced during November, the report found.

"We've got a lot of important work to be done in 2021," Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, said in a Jan. 6 webinar entitled, "Back to Work."

The challenges for Nebraska coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic include growing the workforce, maintaining the state's quality of life and remaining competitive in the global marketplace, Slone said in the webinar.

Attracting young people to the workforce remains a challenge, as does improving productivity through better technology, the chamber president said.

"Our quality of life continues to be unmatched," he said. "Our central location as a logistics hub has all sorts of opportunities as we bring the supply chain back to the United States."

The state's key sectors of agriculture, manufacturing and finance are a strong backbone to the economy and have been "rather resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic," Slone said.

"Coming out of the pandemic, we have the opportunity to succeed and take on big initiatives," he said.

The states that succeed in the post-pandemic world will be those that attract 18 to 34-year-old workers, Sloan said.

"You can already see it in states like Illinois, New York and California that are experiencing out-migration of this very essential group," he said. "This is the time for Nebraska to capture the ability to attract 18 to 34-year-olds."

That will require investment in innovation and research.

"Old ways of looking at things are going to have to take a backseat for a while," Sloan said.

Investments in broadband internet for rural areas and improved highways are also needed, he said.

He cited Norfolk as an example of a Nebraska city trying to reinvent its downtown with restaurants, apartments and businesses.

"Norfolk has some really incredible plans on the table for transforming downtown into something that is going to be very robust and attractive to the very generation we need to attract," he said.