Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

State chamber president's focus - economic development

Throughout the years, Nebraska State Chamber President Brian Slone has always known Nebraska as home. Growing up in the small towns of Western Nebraska, Gordon and Gering, Slone has been close to the small community aspect of life.

Graduating from Gering High School, Slone attended college at the the University of Nebraska, at a young 29 years old Slone worked in Washington D.C., where he was legal advisor to the IRS Commissioner and served as a House Ways and Means Committee staff member under former U.S. Rep. Hal Daub, helping shape the 1986 Tax Reform Act under President Ronald Reagan. After a time in working in Berlin, Germany, as a tax attorney it was time to head back home, to Nebraska.

After working as an attorney and CPA for many years, Sloan decided it was time to retire. He ran for Governor, but coming up short in the election with current Nebraska Governor Pete Rickets.

Slone was approached a few months back about the opening position of State Chamber President, to replace Chamber President Berry Kennedy after 32 years at the chamber, 19 of which he served as the organization's president.

"I see this as a good fit, I have a back ground in law, taxes, and politics," Slone said. This journey began just a short two months ago, as the new State Chamber President, and Slone has high hopes for the future.

"We are focusing on a State Economic Development strategy, all over Nebraska, not just the bigger cities back east." Wanting the involvement of Western Nebraska to be just as important as Omaha's and Lincoln's, Slone wants to focus much of the project on the small towns of the state.

"What can we do as a whole to make sure we are keeping our population growth percentage up across the state not just Omaha? What can we do to get people to come to Nebraska and stay? What jobs can we provide, how can we improve housing issues across the state?" Was a few questions he asked the public at the short discussion at City Hall Chambers in Kimball, last Friday morning.

Slone understands that different cities in the State have their own needs and will grow as communities differently however the state as a whole needs to work together on a economic development plan together, working with and molding each communities needs as a team, when competing as a state with 49 other states.

"Scott Frost is faced with looking at the rest of the Big 10 Conference to figure out and how to adjust his team to be able to win. There are 15 to 20 states we are competing against, this is where us as a state will learn to build our strengths together."

"The only way to be successful is for every community to feel like they have a chance and will play a roll in this outcome," Slone added.

Blue Print Nebraska is a project in the works, to enhance strengths of the state and work together to over come challenges that we face. This project will include members from all regions of Nebraska to make certain every community voice is heard. This project is just now making its way into the works but will be gaining momentum as the process continues to build with in the next year and a half.

A larger task on the list is housing, going hand and hand is workforce, and population growth throughout the state. Nebraska has below one percent population growth as a state. "It is necessity to figure out how to get new jobs to smaller communities, but also the housing development as well as people."

A thought about jobs being offered into the smaller communities is that trade classes need to be offered at high schools across the state once again. Many small schools throughout the state aren't able to offer classes like wood shop, autoshop, welding, mechanics like in the past.

"If a class like this is offered many students could become interested in a career later in one of these industries, and start a business back in the small community. Bringing jobs, revenue, and population to the smaller community and the state. It is a program that should be looked into"

"If I was to start a business I would choose a small town, for instance Kimball is a great spot to start a new business, you have the short travel distance to the international air port in Denver."

To a small town man living and working in the big cities, nothing is more heartwarming than the little coffee shop down main street that has been their for years, or the family owned bakery that still puts the rooster to shame as an alarm clock.

"Downtowns are coming back, the shopping malls and strip malls are starting to empty and town squares are beginning to revive. That is important in the up coming thriving community and the state."

Slone gave the example of the small town of Broadwater as a community coming back to life, because of some local business men. The town square is on its way back to being the center of the town."

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