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Growing Nebraska: A Year in Review

Growing Nebraska: A Year in Review

By Governor Pete Ricketts

December 21, 2021


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If you’ve read my weekly columns, tuned into a press conference, or heard me speak before, you are no stranger to my guiding vision for the state: growing Nebraska.  It’s been the mission of my Administration, and each year we have achieved success towards that goal.  This year has been no different.  In fact, Nebraska has made plenty of progress in 2021 worth celebrating.


Last week, Politico ranked Nebraska number one in the country for our pandemic response in its State Pandemic Scorecard.  Economically, we outscored every other state. 


Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate of any state in history—1.8%.  This unprecedented low rate is a testament to Nebraskans’ work ethic.  Due to our strong economic performance and because we have limited spending growth, we have been able to provide enormous tax relief.  Working with the Legislature, we will provide over $2 billion of tax relief the next two years.  This is the equivalent of 20% of our budget.


The State also took steps to bolster our workforce in 2021.  At my request, Senators expanded the Career Scholarship Program, extending it to non-public colleges and universities. Additionally, the Legislature exempted 100% of military retirement from state income taxes.  This is a big deal for our workforce, since veterans complete their military service as young as 38.  At this age, they’re looking to contribute their skills in civilian life.  We’ll now be more competitive in retaining and recruiting veterans to the Good Life. 


We’ve seen tremendous manufacturing growth in 2021, with manufacturing employment climbing beyond pre-pandemic levels.  Manufacturers, large and small, have made investments in every corner of our state:


  • April: Love’s and Cargill announced a joint venture to produce renewable diesel.  It’s bringing 50 jobs to Hastings.
  • May: Steel manufacturer Nucor announced a $58 million investment to grow its operations in Norfolk.
  • Summer: Becton Dickinson completed a $70 million expansion, primarily in Holdrege, to manufacture devices used to administer coronavirus vaccines. 
  • July: Kawasaki announced a $200 million investment and the addition of 550 jobs in Lincoln to make more ATVs, Jet Skis, and other vehicles.
  • August: Danish bioscience company Novozymes announced a $300+ million investment in Blair.
  • September: Monolith Materials unveiled plans to construct a major plant to manufacture carbon-free ammonia in Hallam and add 200 jobs over 18 months.
  • November: Scoular announced a $75 million expansion of the Petsource plant in Seward.
  • December: Sustainable Beef received approval to move forward with its plant in North Platte.  The project is expected to create 875 jobs and will add much-needed processing capacity for our cattle producers.


The list could go on.  It is just a sample of the many projects happening as part of Nebraska’s manufacturing resurgence.


As established businesses grow, startups are also thriving.  Nebraska companies have brought in more venture capital in 2021 than in any previous year.  Last month, Lincoln’s Virtual Incision secured $46 million to commercialize a miniature robot used by doctors to perform surgeries.  In October, CompanyCam announced $30 million of capital investment to further develop its software app that allows contractors to share video of their progress on projects.  Omaha-based Breeze raised $10 million in August to enhance its innovative insurance technology.  This influx of investment will help companies generate more great-paying jobs for Nebraskans.

We’ve also minimized disruption to education for our students.  In its Scorecard, Politico ranked Nebraska fourth in the nation for Education.  Politico’s research shows that Nebraska is one of few states whose students displayed virtually no drop in achievement in math and reading during the pandemic.  Nebraska parents and educators deserve special recognition for this achievement, but we must also commend the students.  Their performance is a promising preview of what lies ahead for our state as they become graduates, employees, and more active members of their communities.

Nebraska also climbed the rankings in child welfare this year.  According to the Casey Family Foundation, Nebraska is now #7 out of 50 states for overall child well-being.  That’s up from #12 in 2019 and #9 in 2020.  Casey ranks Nebraska #2 nationally for children’s economic well-being.  Our performance is a result of the great work done by our teammates at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Bring Up Nebraska, and the many organizations working across the state to serve children and families. 


Our farmers, ranchers, and feeders continue to grow Nebraska agriculture.  Through September, Nebraska beef exports are at $1.27 billion for 2021.  That’s on pace to set an annual record.  In both volume and value, U.S. soybean exports broke records in the 2020-2021 marketing year.  The Cornhusker State has lived up to its nickname in 2021, setting a state record for corn production at an estimated 1.83 billion bushels.  As with beef and soybeans, U.S. corn exports soared in 2021.  Through 10 months of this year, U.S. corn exports have been higher than they were in 2019 and 2020 combined.


Other successes can’t fully be captured with data.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Nebraska has the nation’s fourth-lowest fatality rate among persons who’ve had COVID-19.  Since the coronavirus vaccine was approved just over a year ago, we’ve vaccinated over 90% of Nebraskans aged 65 or older.  What we cannot begin to quantify is the magnitude of gratitude owed to the doctors and nurses who have given exceptional care to Nebraskans this year.  Their unwavering service helped Nebraska power through the pandemic in 2021.


Nebraskans take care of their neighbors, and our success as a state reflects our strong communities.  Our neighborliness and civic spirit—along with Nebraska’s trademark work ethic and grit—have propelled us forward during another difficult year.  As always, please contact me at or call 402-471-2244 if you have any questions.