By Sheryll Poe
Thanks to increased global demand for agriculture and a domestic energy boom, the Cornhusker state is popping.
But while those external factors are helping Nebraska grow, it's also pro-business policies that are helping Nebraska become a state of opportunity.
Gov. Dave Heineman, now in his second term, worked with the Nebraska Legislature in 2007 to pass the largest tax cut in state history, providing $425 million in tax relief over two years. His efforts moved Nebraska up in the Tax Foundation's annual state rankings from 45th in 2006 to 29th currently.
According to the U.S. Chamber's 2012 Enterprising States report to be released on June 13 at its annual Jobs Summit, Nebraska ranks first in tax environment for new firms and ninth in tax environment for mature firms.
In the last legislative session, Heineman balanced the budget and signed a modest income tax relief proposal to lower taxes by $130 million over the next three years.
"Just when you're feeling really good, you've got to be concerned someone is going to come up behind you and leapfrog your efforts," Heineman said to FreeEnterprise.com about his tax-slashing legacy. "We want to keep moving forward."
Nebraska is firmly poised to take advantage of the worldwide demand for more food. Heineman helped negotiate trade deals with Taiwan and Cuba for the exportation of wheat, soybeans, and other commodities and has been a proponent of increased production of ethanol.
Heineman's administration is encouraging out-of-state companies to relocate to Nebraska and companies in the state to stay put. It's all part of Nebraska Advantage, a tax incentive package that can substantially reduce, and in certain cases eliminate, a company's income, sales, payroll withholding, and certain classes of personal property taxes for up to 15 years. So far, approximately 270 businesses have committed to invest more than $ 5.9 billion in Nebraska's economy and to create more than 19,500 jobs.
"If a business is looking at where to locate, and looking at who can write the biggest check, Texas is going to win every day," Heineman says. "What we're offering businesses is a partnership for a lifetime, not just the one day we show up to do the ribbon cutting."
To attract and keep businesses in the state, Heineman says you have to make it easier to navigate the regulatory maze, and "get from A to Z quicker." It's as simple as being more transparent and telling businesses what the steps are to get a permit or a license, and providing better training for state regulators.
"When we were permitting our ethanol plants, we made sure that no matter where you were located in the state, all of the regulators did it in the same fashion, applied the laws evenly across the state, so you didn't get a different answer at a different office. It just came down to training, basically."