Gov. Pillen Hosts Ag and Economic Development Summit
Last week, Governor Jim Pillen welcomed around 500 leaders to Kearney’s Younes Conference Center North for the “Governor’s Summit on Ag and Economic Development,” co-hosted by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA).
“When our kids grow up and graduate, we want them to enter the most competitive economy in America—right here in Nebraska,” said Gov. Pillen. “This begins with strengthening our top industry of agriculture. It also involves developing quality infrastructure, reliable broadband access, a modern highway network, and a world-class system of water management. Together, we can grow Nebraska, and this Summit is the key to unifying our efforts.”
The Governor’s Summit is the state’s premier economic development forum, convening leaders from across Nebraska to discuss how to grow the Good Life. This is the third consecutive year the Summit has had an agricultural focus.
“The Governor’s Ag and Economic Development Summit brings together agriculture groups, leaders and businesses so people can focus on building relationships and finding solutions to the common challenges we face as an industry,” said NDA Director Sherry Vinton. “We are fortunate to live in a state with diverse agriculture and abundant resources. Gov. Pillen, a life-long ag advocate who knows the industry inside and out, is focused on value-added agriculture, livestock development, innovation and trade. Nebraska is an agricultural powerhouse because of these unique opportunities, and we will continue to build our ag industry to grow Nebraska.”
“The annual Summit allows our agency to discover opportunities for partnership and build collaborative relationships,” said DED Director K.C. Belitz. “DED is well-positioned to fill in the gaps of programs being launched by businesses and civic leaders across Nebraska. The Summit is a valuable time to learn how we can best support the creative ideas originating in our local communities.”
This year’s event included a focus on Nebraska’s highway, water, and broadband infrastructures and their importance to the state’s long-term prosperity. The Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) headed sessions to highlight how improvements to the state’s transit system, and expansion of Nebraska’s broadband networks, are creating opportunities for businesses to grow. The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) led panel discussions on the potential of artificial intelligence and data management tools to benefit agricultural operations through greater water use efficiency, reduced energy costs, and optimal chemical use for water treatment.
“As the Governor has said, the most important resources of Nebraska are our people and our water,” said Director Tom Riley of the Department of Natural Resources. “Nebraska is positioned to lead out on artificial intelligence (AI) and enhance opportunities for all Nebraskans. Our water resources are rivaled by no other state, and this will help us lead our effort to push our economy forward.”
The Summit started on Tuesday night with a reception and awards banquet hosted by the Nebraska Diplomats. During the evening event, North Platte was honored as Nebraska’s “Community of the Year” for its recent economic development accomplishments. Additionally, leaders were recognized for their contributions to grow Nebraska agriculture, create thriving businesses, and promote the state to international partners.
Gov. Pillen kicked off Wednesday’s activities with opening remarks. Attendees then took part in discussion tracks featuring issues central to the state’s growth. Session topics included growing the state’s workforce, attracting investment in biomanufacturing, tapping demand for Nebraska’s sustainable ag commodities, and helping communities find creative housing solutions. The day’s luncheon featured an informal fireside chat between Gov. Pillen and Trev Alberts, vice chancellor for Athletics at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
Gov. Pillen was a panel leader for two sessions at the Summit, focused on value-added agriculture. The Aksarben Foundation has launched an initiative highlighting efforts around sustainability and stewardship by Nebraska farmers and ranchers. The idea is to track data and ensure compensation for those initiatives. The Foundation has created a website promoting the project here: https://aksarben.org/full-value-ag/.