I Left My Heart in Scottsbluff County

Visionary.  Strategic.  Innovative.  These are a few of the words I would use to describe the folks that attended our Town Hall meeting in Scottsbluff, Nebraska http://www.wehavejobs.net/ last week.  Scottsbluff may be considered a small community by some, but the leaders I spoke with had big ideas for their community and for the state.

The meeting addressed three major issues: quality jobs and workforce issues, access to education and training, and supports for working families.  Certainly, in Scottsbluff as elsewhere in the nation, unemployment, a need for skills that match 21st Century jobs, and increased demand for social services are concerns.

But, the folks in Scottsbluff had no hesitations about taking these issues head-on, and in many ways, they already have.  For example, Senator Harms, the State Senator from Scottsbluff, referenced legislation he introduced which was passed last session to develop a strategic plan for Nebraska (LB 653), like visionary states such as Maryland have already done.  This provides an opportunity for our state to outline where we are going and how we can build a stronger workforce, economy, and, better quality of life.

Building opportunities for “green jobs” was also discussed by individuals involved in economic development.  Their vision is of quality jobs that both contribute to environmental improvements and good wages for workers, like those under consideration in Wisconsin http://www.cows.org/greenerpathways/. Drawing wind-turbine manufacturing to the western part of the state is a real possibility with real potential.

New ways to serve families was also a part of the discussion. Service providers in the area are meeting new demands from families brought in their doors by the downturned economy, and at the same time, recognize the need to alter state programs to meet the needs of families in 2009, taking into consideration the unique geographical challenges of rural communities such as outlined in Nebraska’s “Family Bottom Line” report.

Folks were just as likely to quote economist Paul Krugman as their fellow ranchers in the area, their thoughtful analysis and commitment to Nebraska and to building “The Good Life” in rural areas was impressive, and I’m confident that other communities and other Nebraskans will have as much to add to the debate – and to the vision for our state – as those in Scottsbluff County.

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