Nebraska is known for its sturdy spirit and pioneer history. After the Homestead Act of 1862, eager settlers raced toward the vast and abundant land. They were offered 160 acres -- and in some parts of Western Nebraska a full section, or 640 acres -- for a fee of 10 dollars and a commitment to live on the land for five years.
These first pioneers were struck by the overwhelming openness and vastness of the land. Nebraska Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Willa Cather, echoed this sentiment in a 1921 interview in the Omaha Bee: "This country was mostly wild pasture and as naked as the back of your hand."
Nebraska signified opportunity like an empty canvas, and the early settlers painted a portrait on it, dashed with vibrant towns, expansive farms and ranches, and bustling cities.
They weren't grasping toward an easy life -- try living through a winter on the Great Plains -- but starved and struggled toward a good life, one they would be proud to pass down to their children.
Today's Nebraska builds upon that foundational spirit. We see it in our thriving businesses, prosperous agriculture industry, and rapid economic growth.
While the national economic recovery continues to lag and millions of Americans are still out of work, Nebraska continues to add jobs and foster development. This means employers are able to create good jobs, which has translated into the second lowest unemployment rate in the country, at 3.6 percent.
Make no mistake: Nebraska's economic success isn't due to luck. The state offers employers smart tax incentives that encourage hiring and investment. This commitment to supporting the private sector has led to several businesses expanding and employing more workers.
Last year, CNBC ranked Nebraska as one of the top five environments for business. Another research group placed Nebraska as the second most business-friendly state in 2013.
Site Selection, a publication that studies job creation and expanding businesses, announced this week that Nebraska had the highest amount of corporate investment projects per capita in 2013. Rapidly evolving competitive tax incentives attract businesses and investors from across the country to build in Nebraska. Technology and manufacturing are among these fast-growing sectors.
I witnessed this firsthand last month in a visit to Paypal's operations center in La Vista, where I met with just a handful of the 2,500 people they employ.
Like 45 other states, Nebraska is legally required to balance its budget. But unique to Nebraska is our constitutional prohibition against incurring state debt greater than $100,000. Accordingly, Nebraska was recently ranked by Barron's as the best state in the country at managing its finances. Our state government has essentially no tax-supported debt and the country's lowest unfunded pension obligation.
We don't spend money we don't have. The federal government could learn a thing or two from the Nebraska way.
Nebraska was also featured as one of the top ten states for retirement. Our cost of living is among the lowest in the nation and Nebraska has a strong health care infrastructure. According to Kaiser, the Cornhusker State has one of the highest rates of hospital beds per capita.
Agriculture also plays a critical role in Nebraska's booming economy. Blessed with abundant natural resources -- prime grazing grasses and the immense Ogallala Aquifer -- Nebraska is a national leader in cattle production. The Department of Agriculture announced last month that Nebraska surpassed Texas for the most cattle in feedlots of 1,000 or more.
Needless to say, Nebraskans know a better way. Whether it's broad-based tax reform, cosponsoring a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, or pushing back against overregulation, I'll continue to fight to bring Nebraska common sense to Washington.
Please share your suggestions with me and together we can make a difference.
Thank you for taking part in our democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.
As you may know, this year I have the privilege of hosting the Nebraska Breakfast. I plan to share our state's great heritage by showing a video that highlights several aspects of Nebraska's proud people and traditions.