Nebraska Thriving Index Insights: Northeast Region

Nebraska Thriving Index Northeast Region, Wayne

Today we explore Nebraska’s Northeast region through the Nebraska Thriving Index. The region’s thriving index score is 103 — just above the peer average of 100. It ranks 3rd among its six peer regions, all of which are located in Nebraska and Iowa.

Highlights for this region are its 2nd-place rankings among its peer regions in the following indexes:

  • Growth
  • Other Prosperity
  • Social Capital

Drilling into the measures that comprise each of these indexes via the online interactive tool, we find:

  • Private wage growth – 1st among peers
  • Total employment growth – 2nd among peers
  • Private employment – 2nd among peers
  • Growth in dividends, interest and rent – 2nd among peers
  • Total personal income stability – 2nd among peers

These findings indicate there is solid economic growth in the Northeast region. However, to ensure long-term growth, the region should take steps to improve quality of life and the education and skill of its workforce.  

We also find some interesting opportunities for the region to double down on its strengths by improving in the following measures that comprise the growth, other prosperity and social capital indexes:

  • 501c3 organizations – 6th (last) among peer regions
  • Percent of population in poverty – 5th among peer regions
  • Households with children – 4th among peer regions

Areas of concern for the Northeast region include the following indexes:

  • Economic Opportunity & Diversity – 5th among peers
  • Quality of Life – 5th among peers

Broadly speaking, the region ranks poorly for entrepreneurship and employment opportunities. The economic opportunity and diversity measures include:

  • Entrepreneurial activity – 5th among peers
  • Non-farm proprietors per 1,000 persons – 5th among peers
  • Employer establishments per 1,000 residents – 5th among peers
  • Industry diversity – 4th among peers

Quality of life comparisons among peers are fairly strong in natural resources and arts — even leading in count of parks. However, there are explicit concerns in:

  • Health care access (practioners per capita) – 6th (last) among peers
  • Daycare providers – 6th (last) among peers
  • Relative weekly wage – 6th (last) among peers

In considering the many factors gathered through the Nebraska Thriving Index, communities in the region should continue to focus on:

  • Improving the quality of local education institutions at the primary, secondary and community college level. 
  • Business internship programs to encourage more college graduates to locate or relocate to the region after graduation
  • Encouraging entrepreneurship in industries related to quality of life including health care, child care, restaurants and leisure and entertainment

To learn more, dig in yourself at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/nethrivingindex. We encourage users to submit insights, questions and examples of strategies they’ve employed to address what has been discussed here.

October 17, 2019

A catalyst for a community $4 million c-store
The best professional development of her career
A life-changing, perspective altering experience

These are just a few of the outcomes of Rural Futures Institute Fellows — what will be yours?

We have extended the deadline for students and communities to apply for a summer 2020 RFI Fellows experience, but get your application started TODAY!

Student Application

Community Application

RFI Fellows application deadlines extended — apply by 10/25!


There is still time to apply for a summer 2020 Rural Futures Institute Fellow experience! The deadline has been extended from Oct. 17 to Oct. 25.

A catalyst for a community $4 million c-store >>>
The best professional development of her career >>>
A life-changing, perspective altering experience >>>
These are just a few of the outcomes of Rural Futures Institute Fellows — what will be yours?

We have extended the deadline for students and communities to apply for a summer 2020 RFI Fellows experience, but given the details requested applicants are encouraged to give themselves plenty of time to complete the application. If you have questions, please contact Sam Guenther at sguenther@nebraska.edu.


The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is seeking highly-motivated students and passionate community leaders to increase their inclusive leadership capacity while creating the future of Nebraska’s rural communities through workforce development, economic development, recruitment and retention of residents, access and more.

Deemed RFI Fellows, selected students and community innovators will join forces for 10 weeks during summer 2020 to make significant progress on strategic community initiatives and priority projects while immersing themselves in 1-to-1 inclusive leadership coaching with the University of Nebraska’s Helen Fagan, Ph.D. 

Students will live, work and serve in the community they are focused on, and community innovators will invite them into the life of rural Nebraska. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity for communities to accomplish tangible work through students, but it is also transformational for all of the people involved,” Fagan said. “To truly make a thriving rural future for Nebraska, we need thriving individuals who include and inspire others.”

After completing the application, students will be interviewed in November and notified of the selection in December. Communities will work through project definitions with RFI staff throughout the winter and everyone will be matched based on projects that fit their expertise and interests in early 2020. All fellows are required to complete training before the in-community experience, which will take place May 25 – July 31, 2020.

Students are paid $12.50 per hour with housing and equipment for projects provided by the communities. RFI is available to assist communities as they seek funding, which is estimated at $12,000 per pair of student fellows.

“I have never grown so much personally in such a short amount of time like I did during my RFI fellows experience this summer,” said Hailey Walmsley, agricultural education major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “I came back to school with a new confidence, and I can’t wait to watch the great work RFI Fellows from all of the campuses and more communities will continue to do in the coming years.”

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October 10, 2019

The deadline to apply for #RFIFellows 2020 is quickly approaching! Apply by Thursday, Oct. 17, to be considered for a transformational summer experience.

RFI Fellows

Students – complete resume-building work in #rural #Nebraska communities.

Communities – gain tangible results on critical strategic intiatives.

ALL – gain inclusive leadership certification to prepare for your future and the future of the state.

October 4, 2019

TODAY at 2pm CST, RFI’s Dr. Helen Fagan is hosting a webinar for students who are interested in applying for a summer 2020 #RFIFellows experience!

This is your opportunity to get all of the details to submit a stellar application by Oct. 17.

Webinar & Application

We’re looking for students interested in early childhood education, marketing, entrepreneurship, strategic planning, city planning, tourism, etc.

But more than anything, we’re interested in students who are willing to dig deep within themselves to increase their leadership capacity and perspective.

Oct. 8, 2019

One of our goals is to give more and more college students an experience in a rural community. Whether or not they end up living there, they will forever carry a rural perspective with them, and that is meaningful to our combined, rural-urban future.

We encourage ALL University of Nebraska and other collegiate students, no matter their field of study, to apply to be a 2020 RFI Fellow — you can make an incredible difference and develop significant leadership capabilities.

Application closes Oct. 17, 2019.

RFI Student Fellows Application