January 2, 2009
Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
With the beginning of a new year, I wanted to take this opportunity to look back at some of the important accomplishments of the past year.
For a second year in a row, more children have left our child welfare system than have entered it. That accomplishment has resulted in a 15 percent decline in the number of state wards since an all-time high was reached in 2006. The progress we have seen in these last two years has been unprecedented and is a major accomplishment.
Working with the Legislature, we made progress in our efforts to attract innovative, growing businesses by expanding our business incentives package to include the Nebraska Super Advantage. The new tier provides additional incentives to companies paying higher wages and will help in our business recruitment efforts.
The 2008 session set in motion changes that will provide a fresh start to the Nebraska State Fair. The passage of a bill that relocates the State Fair to Grand Island in 2010 is an opportunity to revitalize one of Nebraska’s longest running traditions. It paves the way for the University of Nebraska to develop an innovation campus with the potential to attract new economic growth to our capital city in the future.
We started some new traditions in 2008 that will continue in the years to come. Wellness is an essential component in reducing healthcare costs in the long-term. This year we launched a new award program recognizing Nebraska’s leaders in workplace wellness. Thirty-eight organizations were honored for programs that help employees lead healthier lives. We want to encourage more Nebraskans to make wellness a part of their everyday lives. By making this recognition program an annual event in our state, we expect new and innovative ideas to be put in use in the area of workplace wellness.
Last year will also be remembered for an event that helped our state make new connections to international businesses. The reverse trade mission hosted this fall brought many first- time guests to Nebraska and provided opportunities for visitors to interact with Nebraska business leaders and visit growing businesses. This event was a first for our state. It provided our economic development team with several new connections to companies looking to invest in the United States Trade relationships develop and mature over time and the reverse trade mission will be something we revisit in the years to come as we seek to open new doors for trade and international investment.
A major overhaul of our state Web site, http://www.Nebraska.gov, occurred in 2008. This helps online users connect to more than 300 online government services, many in two clicks or less. The site was recognized by the Center for Digital Government for the focus on helping users find the services and information they need. In the digital age, the state Web site is a valuable platform for helping citizens interact with state government. Nebraska.gov is the centerpiece of our e-government initiatives and we expect to continue expanding our online presence as more citizens use the Internet to access services.
These are just a few of the many areas where progress was made in the past year. While 2008 is officially behind us, these initiatives will continue to impact Nebraska for many years to come.