Banking Commerce and Insurance

Commercial development bill narrowed to a study, advanced

Lawmakers narrowed a measure intended to promote the development of “mega sites” in Nebraska before advancing it to the final round of debate March 4.

Sen. Mike McDonnell
Sen. Mike McDonnell

As introduced last session, LB644, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, would have transferred $80 million per year from the state’s Cash Reserve Fund to the Site and Building Development Fund over the next two years to target, evaluate and develop mega sites, which are large areas of land with infrastructure in place meant to draw commercial and industrial projects to the state.

The bill was amended on general file to require that the state Department of Economic Development use 15.5% of the funds for projects located west of the 100th meridian in Nebraska. The 100th meridian passes through the state at Cozad.

Several senators expressed reservations about the bill’s cost during the previous round of debate and McDonnell offered an amendment on select file to address those concerns.

The amendment, adoped 32-0, gutted the measure and instead would appropriate $500,000 from the Site and Building Development Fund in fiscal year 2024-25 to the department to fund a comprehensive evaluation of potential mega sites, to be completed by Dec. 15, 2024. At least one proposed site in the study would have to be located west of the 100th meridian.

Among other variables, the study would assess:
• potential geographic locations;
• infrastructure assets that would be required for each site, including transportation and utilities;
• the population within 50 miles of each site and whether such population would be sufficient to provide an adequate workforce; and
• the appropriate level of state investment necessary to position Nebraska as a nationally or globally competitive location for site selection in various economic sectors.

The amendment also would require the DED director to create an advisory committee, made up of representatives of economic development organizations from each of the state’s three congressional districts, to assist the department in identifying potential mega site locations.

Following adoption of the amendment, senators advanced LB644 to final reading by voice vote.

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