- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts says the state must reevaluate its policies and marketing to reach its economic potential.

Ricketts announced the first annual Governor’s Summit on Economic Development in a news conference Tuesday.

Community and business leaders will gather at the summit on July 12 to discuss the obstacles preventing economic growth.

The state hired independent research center SRI International earlier this year to gather input from community and business leaders across the state.

Nebraska has not studied specific economic development strategies since a similar report was written by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice in October 2010. The landscape has since changed, Ricketts said.

“These are things that will always change and we’re always going to have to look at to make sure we’re remaining competitive so we can attract those businesses and get them to take a look at us,” Ricketts said.

SRI identified three key issues: workforce, housing and innovation. The summit will facilitate strategies to address those roadblocks.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to win the business on incentives, what we want to do is win the business because we’ve got the best workforce in the world right here in Nebraska,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts said employers desperately need health care professionals and skilled labor in manufacturing, but there aren’t enough workers to go around.

Nebraska economic development director Courtney Dentlinger said the state’s 2.9 percent unemployment is a double edged sword.

“It’s wonderful to have low unemployment, but difficult to help our businesses grow,” she said.

Dentlinger said the state needs to reevaluate its policies to keep young people in the state and show the world it is a fertile environment for business development.

At the summit, Julie Curtin, executive vice president and partner at Development Counsellors International, will speak about how communities across Nebraska can build campaigns to attract and retain talent. SRI will also offer an analysis of the state’s innovation ecosystem.

The summit will be open to the public at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln.

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