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Agriculture is a critical part of Nebraska’s economy, and changes in the fortunes of agriculture play an important role in the success of the state’s non-metropolitan regions. Trends toward consolidation and rising productivity in agriculture, however, have raised concerns about the future of non-metropolitan Nebraska. Some citizens and policymakers have begun to wonder if the economy can create sufficient job opportunities for non-metropolitan residents. The answer to this question depends not only upon the relative strength of the agricultural sector, but also upon the presence of other industries that can join agriculture as pillars for employment growth in non-metropolitan Nebraska.
This study, sponsored by the University of Nebraska Rural Initiative, brings together researchers from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Creighton University to examine multiple dimensions of Nebraska’s non-metropolitan economy. In addition to agriculture, we will examine the fortunes of five other key industries: 1) manufacturing, 2) tourism, 3) trucking, 4) professional and technical services, and 5) information. This list contains industries that are traditional areas of rural economic development such as manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism, but also includes rapidly expanding industries in our state (trucking) or industries within a rapidly changing national economy (professional and technical services and information). National economic forecasts suggest that industries such as trucking, tourism, professional and technical services, and information will continue to add employment at a moderate to rapid pace over the next decade.