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Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

October 28, 2019 GMT

Omaha World Herald. October 27, 2019

Manufacturing offers major opportunities for Nebraskans, Iowans and their communities

Advanced manufacturing in Nebraska offers major economic opportunities for individuals as well as communities. Companies are keen to fill positions, and workers qualified for high-skill positions can find rewarding career opportunities.

Manufacturing employs nearly one in 10 Nebraskans, and the sector has bounced back from the Great Recession, with the largest employment in more than a decade. Gov. Pete Ricketts recently noted various manufacturing expansions across the state. Some examples:

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“ In Columbus, Becton Dickinson is building a $60 million plastic molding plant to produce vials, syringe caps and other components for the medical sector, building on the company’s substantial investment in Columbus.

“ In Scottsbluff, Aulick Industries plans to built a new, 30,000-square-foot building that will boost the company’s truck chassis by 50% and add numerous jobs.

“ In David City, Timpte Inc., a trailer manufacturer, is building a new research and development center and increasing capacity at its main factory, adding 30 to 60 new jobs.

“ In Holdrege, Allmand Inc. is expanding its current facility, with plans to add about 20 jobs. The company manufactures portable job site equipment such as light towers, generators, compressors and portable lights.

“ In Blair, Veramaris’ $200 million plant is the latest addition to the city’s impressive bioscience sector. The plant produces omega-3 acids as nutrition for salmon on fish farms. Nebraska corn provides the sugar used in the production process.

Such examples show the notable variety found in Nebraska’s manufacturing sector, from metal fabrication to bioscience. Manufacturing contributes $13 billion in annual economic output in Nebraska, with exports of $6.48 billion. In fact, during 2010-18 the state’s manufactured goods exports increased by almost 41%.

Last year, pharmaceuticals and medicines provided 11.3% of job growth in Nebraska’s manufacturing sector, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Other significant sources of Nebraska’s manufacturing job growth are medical equipment and supplies, 10.4%; motor vehicles, 7.3%; and motor vehicle parts, 4.1%.

Manufacturing also contributes significantly to Iowa’s economy. In fact, Iowa last year ranked sixth in the nation for one-year job creation in the manufacturing sector, adding 7,800 jobs. Iowa’s top sources of manufacturing job creation during 2018 were aerospace products and parts, 11.2%; machinery for agriculture, construction and mining, 9.7%; and pharmaceuticals and medicine, 7.1%.

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Nebraska pursues a wide range of efforts to develop a trained workforce for modern manufacturing. Metropolitan Community College has made major investments in new, top-quality facilities for training in advanced manufacturing and other sectors, working close with private industry on the details. Wayne State College this year opened its Center for Applied Technology. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lance Perez, the engineering dean, is pursuing plans to boost the program’s enrollment substantially.

Career academies across the state link local schools with local companies, offering training opportunities for young people. One of the most ambitious is the Career Pathways Institute in Grand Island. Central Community College is one of the participating organizations. “Math and science continue to be more and more important” for employment in advanced manufacturing, says Doug Pauley, the college’s director of training and development. “Critical thinking is what industry is looking for, so they can adapt and change to the new technology as it comes in. Communications skills continue to be important, to work together as a team.”

Other Nebraska efforts include the Developing Youth Talent Initiative, which provides state grants that help middle school and high school students develop manufacturing skills; the reVISION program, in which school systems, companies and the State Department of Education match instructional programs with local business needs; and German-style apprenticeships with two German companies that have American headquarters in Nebraska — CLAAS of America and Graepel North America.

Through such forward-looking efforts, Nebraska can nurture the next generation of talent for this important economic sector.

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McCook Gazette. October 25, 2019

12-hour shifts only temporary solution to prison problem

Nebraska’s overcrowded prison system has helped make McCook’s Work Ethic Camp more like just one more prison than the innovative rehabilitation center which it was originally envisioned as.

The prison system as a whole bears watching, however, as the WEC is one of McCook’s most important employers.

That’s why it’s of note that Scott R. Frakes, director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services is taking steps to find and keep more employers at its three largest male facilities to deal with issues that have arisen in recent years.

The state will begin offering a $10,000 hiring bonus for new corporals at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, Tecumseh State Correctional Institution and the Lincoln Correctional Center/Diagnostic and Evaluation Center.

The old hiring bonus was $3,000, and there will also be a $10,000 bonus to staffers who refer additional people, and new employees at the NSP will get an automatic $500 at the end of the year.

No immediate word on whether what if any incentives will be offered in McCook.

Good news always seems to be tempered with not-so-good news, however, and Frakes announced that new 12-hour shifts will be implemented next week, with four consecutive 12-hour days on and three days off. Some staff members had already requested and were approved for 12-hour shifts.

“The expanded use of 12-hour shifts is necessary for the safe and effective operation of the facility.”

Frakes promises that once more staff members are hired and trained, the facility will turn to normal hours of operation.

For the sake of staff members, their families and prisoners themselves, let’s hope that’s true.

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Lincoln Journal Star. October 27, 2019

Lincoln must learn from other cities’ scooter ills

Sometimes, slow and steady wins the race.

By being later to the game on dockless electric scooters, Lincoln will benefit from the hindsight of other cities - Omaha among them - as it crafts an upcoming pilot program. Rather than dealing with dozens of scooters dumped downtown in the dark of night, the city can and will have a say in how they’ll be used after being rented by a smartphone app.

City leaders are wise to proactively take the reins here. Accidents and bad experiences elsewhere have prompted calls for an outright ban on the devices in some cities, but a thoughtful rollout should prevent many of the complaints.

Based on members of the Journal Star editorial board’s experience in other cities with scooter programs, we’d like to offer a few points to consider:

(asterisk) Enforcement: It’s going to be difficult. Bikes and skateboards on downtown sidewalks, defying a longtime ban, may annoy Lincolnites. Scooters belong on streets, too, but somebody will have to coax riders off the sidewalks. Washington, D.C., tickets riders who violate the city’s rules, but the Lincoln Police Department should focus resources on more important matters.

(asterisk) Geofencing: Take advantage of its capabilities. Using the GPS function on smartphones required for scooter rental, Denver slows riders to 5 mph in busy regions, such as the 16th Street Mall and Union Station. This could be used on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, for instance.

(asterisk) Parking: Designate dropoff areas to avoid the clutter that’s plagued paths in other cities. Denver marks zones where scooters can be deposited, and geofencing can help in that regard. A Kansas City, Missouri, vendor offers one better: Scooters must be checked out and in at bike-rental stations. Those who don’t cooperate can be fined, as riders’ credit cards are on file with the app.

(asterisk) Training. Restrictions on age are a no-brainer; some cities even require a brief training session before an initial ride. First-time users are the most likely to get injured. Avoiding danger to life and limb must be of the utmost importance - especially with Lincoln’s largest downtown attractions are very close to each other.

Which yields our most radical suggestion: Idle scooter rentals on Husker football Saturdays.

Memorial Stadium is the state’s third-largest city for seven or eight days a year. With nearly 90,000 people in the stadium and countless thousands more tailgating nearby, scooters’ risks outweigh their rewards at a time when large crowds, alcohol and vehicles - with both two and four wheels - mix.

Lincoln would no doubt dwarf Omaha’s figures from the College World Series, when the average number of trips per day spiked from around 1,200 a day to more than 40,000 in all during the 10-day event.

If the deployment is done right, scooters could reduce downtown traffic congestion and emissions from vehicles sitting at red lights. That’s why Lincoln is right to pursue this pilot program at its own speed.

Starting too fast, as other cities can attest, can carry unintended consequences.

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