Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers
Omaha World Herald. September 6, 2019
Fast-growing companies reflect well on Nebraska business climate
The latest compilation of the country’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies reflects well on Nebraska. Twenty-six businesses made the list, showing that Nebraska is a place where energetic men and women can do business and achieve success.
The list of Nebraska businesses, by Inc. magazine, covers a gamut of industries, including business services, medical staffing, legal work, real estate and IT specializations. The 26 firms are in Omaha, Lincoln or Fremont.
The top 10 in Nebraska: City Ventures (real estate); Mobile Text Alerts (software); CapStone Technologies (business products and services); Dynamo (business products and services); Flywheel (IT management); Ecomitize (IT system development); Atlas MedStaff (health); Fusion Medical Staffing (health); Hilgers Graben (legal services); and Onestaff Medical (health).
Opportunity arises in all sorts of business niches. Ecomitize builds websites for e-commerce businesses and has employees on five continents. Several of the 26 firms handle travel staffing for health care jobs, demonstrating Omaha’s status as a regional hub for the business sector. “We’re just in a constant state of change,” said Andy Wettengel, marketing director for OneStaff Medical. “It’s not expected to slow down.”
City Ventures, Nebraska’s fastest-growing company, develops real estate and pursues other business operations including auto dealerships and car washes. The firm is handling the $235 million La Vista City Centre project that will transform 34 acres on 84th Street.
Nebraska offers a business-friendly culture, a competitive cost of living and appealing civic amenities. That’s a winning combination providing a welcome foundation for entrepreneurial success.
Kearney Hub. September 4, 2019
Don’t skip duty on budget, levy
Next week local governing entities will finalize budgets and soon after that county boards across Nebraska will set officially the levies to disperse the tax load among property owners. It’s a process that happens every year and it usually comes off without much public scrutiny.
The lack of attention is unfortunate.
Budget-setting meetings ought to be the most heavily attended public meetings of the year because what happens at those meetings directly affects individuals, business operators and farmers. Taxes they pay on the property they own support schools, municipalities, counties, natural resource districts, community colleges and other entities.
Without property taxes all of those governmental services would not have the money they need to teach our children, police our communities, maintain the roads and look after our environment.
Taxpayers are affected directly by the money they give to the government and by the services their government delivers, yet few people, if any, will be at the meetings to witness the budgets or levies being approved. The apparent lack of interest either is a sign that people trust their elected officials to make the best decisions, or that they believe they have better things to do, like cutting the grass.
We suggest that by not taking an interest, Nebraskans risk getting the government they deserve. In a democracy such as ours, there is no substitute for watchfulness. It’s a responsibility of citizenship because elected officials make mistakes, and sometimes the mistakes have serious consequences.
This year the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners was forced to remove the county treasurer from office because that person failed to deposit millions of dollars in tax payments. It was an unthinkable mistake that caused numerous problems.
Here in Buffalo County, we’ve seen how inaccuracy in property valuations creates genuine hassles for property owners who must protest their assessments — some year after year. The accuracy problem came to a head when a Kearney citizen stood up at a county board meeting and declared enough is enough.
A spotlight shining on the valuation problems prompted action, and now the assessors office is working to improve its functions. Training, outside scrutiny, public education and an emphasis on customer service all are part of the response.
The goal is to increase accuracy and head off problems before they result in valuation protests.
Residential, commercial and agricultural property owners should be assured that their valuations are correct because accuracy is necessary to fairly spread the tax load.
Another crucial tax load factor is spending. When governments spend too aggressively, it hits all of us in the pocketbook. Remember, citizen participation is important. Attend budget and levy meetings and learn where your tax dollars are being spent.
Lincoln Journal Star. September 3, 2019
Bus between Lincoln, Omaha intriguing idea
Commuters traveling between Lincoln and Omaha have long clamored for an easier way of getting to work, one that saved them gas money and headaches in traffic.
Now, the Nebraska Department of Transportation is conducting a feasibility study for a potential bus route between Lincoln and Omaha. A trio of public meetings - in Greenwood (Wednesday), Lincoln (Thursday) and Omaha (Friday) - should shine additional light on this idea, the study of which should be finished next spring.
As public transit between Nebraska’s two largest cities has grown in recent years, exploring a larger-scale program makes sense. A solution that could simultaneously ease wear and tear on Nebraska’s highways while cutting emissions - both by reducing the number of vehicles on heavily traveled roads - merits further consideration.
The state has mentioned its inspiration is the Colorado Bustang, a program that connects Fort Collins, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs to Denver, in addition to a handful of “outrider” destinations in smaller cities located in more remote areas.
Nebraska could certainly do worse than to study the Rocky Mountain State in this regard. Unlike Lincoln and Omaha, Denver has integrated a light rail system into its robust public transit system. The Bustang routes include stops at major hubs for both local bus and train service - such as downtown’s Union Station - which allows riders to capitalize on whichever means of transportation is best.
Without similar infrastructure in place, Lincoln and Omaha have to consider how to efficiently move people across the metro area once they arrive from the other city. No doubt other changes will follow, if this study deems this path feasible.
Regardless, such an effort could build upon newer programs the state has expanded in recent years.
In 2017, the Department of Roads (now part of the Department of Transportation) launched incentives for vanpooling. This practice uses federal money, up to $400 each month, toward the costs for a rental van to shuttle groups of between seven and 15 between two destinations on a regular basis.
That December, the Journal Star reported that some 4,000 commuters travel between in Lincoln and Omaha on a daily basis, building upon programs that some businesses had already begun on their own. Within a few months, companies such as Hudl and Gallup launched the first such vanpools in the state under the DOT’s GoNEWhere banner. More have since followed in both urban and rural areas.
As Nebraska looks for additional longer-range transportation efficiencies, the possibility of bus service between the Lincoln and Omaha metro areas - nearly 60% of all Nebraskans live within their three most-populous counties, after all - offers intriguing potential.