Entrepreneurship task force advanced

Lawmakers gave first-round approval March 21 to a bill that would create a legislative task force focused on innovation and entrepreneurship in Nebraska’s economy.

LB1083, introduced by Gothenburg Sen. Matt Williams, would adopt the Next Generation Business Growth Act. The bill also would create a Venture Development and Innovation Task Force consisting of six senators appointed by the Executive Board.

Nebraska needs to increase the number and diversity of high-wage jobs across the state, Williams said, and the Legislature should be involved in the endeavor.

“Often our plans for growth have included focusing on attracting new businesses to our state,” he said. “In recent years, however, it’s been demonstrated that working with existing businesses can be a significant catalyst for economic growth.”

The task force would be charged with developing a statewide strategic plan to cultivate a climate of entrepreneurship and innovation in Nebraska. The strategic plan would include:
• an inventory of existing state-sponsored and locally sponsored programs and resources that are targeted to small businesses, microenterprises and entrepreneurial endeavors in the state;
• an economic impact analysis of the existing programs under the Nebraska Business Innovation Act;
• an overview of best practices from other states; and
• a review of previously issued statewide strategic plans focused on high-growth businesses and various policy options.

In consultation with the Executive Board, the task force would employ a nonprofit organization to assist in development of the strategic plan by Dec. 1, 2016. The $75,000 in funding for development of the strategic plan would come from the Community Development Assistance Act.

The Next Generation Business Growth Act would terminate on Jan. 1, 2017.

Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis supported the bill. Rural representation on the task force is essential, he said, because rural areas of the state continue to lose population to areas with higher paying jobs.

“The problem is in rural Nebraska, where depopulation continues to be our number one, most serious problem,” he said. “Economic diversification is an important tool for our state.”

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte questioned whether the task force was necessary, noting that Nebraska has a state Department of Economic Development, innovation campus and other entities to encourage economic growth.

“It seems redundant to me of other initiatives that we have in the state,” Groene said.

The bill advanced to select file 32-1.

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