Growing Nebraska is the vision for my administration and drives the work our team is doing every day. Over the last year, we have seen a lot of success.
For the third year in a row, Nebraska achieved one million non-farm jobs. Our population grew 11,600 and is nearing 1.93 million people. The state earned our second consecutive Governor’s Cup from Site Selection magazine for the most economic development projects per capita in the nation. We are No.1 for fiscal condition, No.2 for cost of doing business, No.3 for wage growth, No.4 for workforce participation rate, No.5 for best states for business, No.6 for low unemployment, and No.7 best state overall – although we all know Nebraska is the best place in the world.
This pro-growth environment has brought new investments to Nebraska. Facebook expanded their data center in Papillion, bringing their total investment to more than $1 billion. Prairie Catalytic cut the ribbon on a new $50 million bio-based ethyl acetate production facility in Columbus. Kawasaki won a $3.6 billion contract to build railcars in Lincoln. In October, BD announced they would invest $200 million and add 300 jobs at their facilities across Nebraska, bringing their total two-year investment in Nebraska to $340 million. We also visited Silicon Valley to thank some of the partners who are helping grow and develop the Silicon Prairie in Nebraska.
Developing our people is key to attracting these investments which create great job opportunities. This year, we expanded the Developing Youth Talent Initiative to two new programs to help expose more students to opportunities in manufacturing and IT. From Boys Town in Omaha to Aulick Industries in Scottsbluff, we launched new registered apprenticeship programs for young Nebraskans. Apprenticeship programs have increased 31 percent since 2016. The Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services are expanding a program that helps families receiving food stamps find better job opportunities to five new communities.
We have been cutting red tape and speeding up service for the job creators who interact with state government. The State Patrol and leaders in agriculture came together to launch new guidelines for livestock hauling to give truckers greater certainty about the rules of the road and to help ensure livestock receive proper care. We slashed wait times at the Omaha Metro South DMV, saving customers an average of 21 minutes per visit. We expanded the number of leaders in our agencies who have received special training to identify waste and facilitate process improvement projects to deliver better service. Also, President Trump has been helping us at the federal level approving E-15 for year-round use and rolling back President Obama’s job-killing Waters of the U.S. rule.
Cutting taxes helps to get government out of the way and spur job creation. This year, the state of Nebraska delivered $2 billion in property tax relief and aid to local governments – a record amount. Working with the Legislature, we helped families avoid a $200 million unintended tax increase due to changes in the federal tax code. We also delivered important tax relief for Nebraskans on fixed incomes by indexing our Social Security tax rates.
Promoting Nebraska’s brand globally is critical to growing our state. That is why I worked with my Council for International Relations to unveil a new strategic plan for international engagement. Our work this year included a trade mission to Mexico and hosting Japanese executives in Omaha for a major trade conference. Nebraska had the honor of welcoming 400 business executives and public officials to the 50th Annual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference in Omaha. This conference allowed us to show off Nebraska as a great place to do business and to encourage our Japanese friends to sit down to talk about a new trade deal. President Trump signed new trade deals with South Korea, Mexico, and Canada, giving Nebraska’s farm families and manufacturers opportunities to grow these key trade relationships. The United States also launched trade negotiations with Japan and the European Union, two key markets for Nebraska.
2018 has been a great year of growth for Nebraska. With a legislative session around the corner, there are opportunities to do more to get government out of the way and help our families achieve their dreams. If you would like to share any thoughts on 2018, I hope you will write me at [email protected] or call 402-471-2244. Merry Christmas and Happy