Senator features

Jacobson focuses energy on growth

Above: Sen. Mike Jacobson engaging in one of his favorite projects — the fall harvest in Clay County.

Sen. Mike Jacobson is a self-described “anomaly” — a banker who doesn’t golf. Instead, he spends what free time he can find as a bank president and state senator engaged in his lifelong passion: farming.

Although he’s been in banking for nearly 43 years, 25 of them as founder and CEO of NebraskaLand Bank in North Platte, farming has always been in Jacobson’s blood. His parents worked land in Clay County and Jacobson knew from the age of five that he wanted to be a farmer.

“I grew up on a rented farm with seven brothers and sisters and we were dirt poor,” Jacobson said. “There’s no reason why I should ever have been successful.”

Because the family didn’t own land that he could come back and take over, Jacobson knew that he’d have to find another way to earn a living while keeping his connection to the land – to the joy he felt planting seeds with his mother in their garden and his natural affinity for “tinkering” with farm equipment.

So, after earning a degree at UNL with majors in agricultural economics and agricultural education, he started out as a vocational agricultural instructor in Red Cloud and Shickley. During that time his wife, Julie, was working as a research chemist for the USDA meat animal research facility in Clay Center.

After a few years of teaching, Jacobson found a new career in banking. It was a change of pace to be sure, but a profession through which he could help people grow their businesses and succeed during difficult economic times, while still making time to get his hands in the Clay County soil.

“Over the years, I kept my passion for farming and ended up buying land down in Clay County where I grew up,” Jacobson said. “I’ve been actively involved in farming all along the way.”

His other forays into public service have also focused on growth – specifically, growing rural Nebraska. When Jacobson was transferred by the bank to North Platte after a decade in Lincoln, one of the first things he noticed was the lack of investment.

“Everything seemed to be happening in the eastern third of Nebraska and the bulk of the 3rd Congressional District was really kind of an afterthought,” he said. “So, a big focus of mine is that I want to see that out-migration reversed — and we do that by creating better quality jobs.”

Jacobson worked toward that goal in part by chairing the Community Redevelopment Authority in North Platte for 24 years and through a stint as chairman of the Nebraska Bankers Association.

Now as a state senator, Jacobson has a new opportunity to encourage growth throughout his legislative district. Appointed in early 2022 to replace former Sen. Mike Groene, who resigned, Jacobson was elected to his first full term in November of that same year. He said his experience during the 2022 legislative session as a “redshirt freshman who saw playing time” gives him an advantage among his incoming class.

“I could come in here on day one and be focused on the legislative session and what I wanted to get done,” he said. “I already had an office and a great staff in place.”

But even as he concentrates on economic development and job creation through legislation, farming is never far from his mind.

“To me, it’s therapy,” Jacobson said. “Julie can attest that whenever I’ve had a stressful week at the bank, she would want me to go down to the farm for the weekend, and I’d come back refreshed and renewed.”

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