Samantha Guenther

Sam serves as a graduate assistant for Rural Futures Institute and the Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). She works as a catalyst within RFI Fellows, primarily students. She also works closely with the inclusive leadership research efforts.

Sam previously served RFI as a serviceship student in Norfolk, Nebraska, during the summer of 2018, and served as the senior fellow for RFI during the 2019 experience.

Sam holds a bachelor’s of science in agricultural leadership education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Since graduation, she has moved to Arapahoe, Neb., while continuing to work with Rural Futures Institute and pursue a master’s degree in leadership education at UNL.

Brooke Manny

Brooke Manny is a graduate research and teaching assistant for the Rural Futures Institute and the Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

She works closely with RFI Fellows and leadership research. She is a student in UNL’s M.S. Leadership Education program.

Brooke is a recent graduate from Washburn University in Topeka, Kan, where she earned her bachlor of arts in history and leadership studies.

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 ranks 6th among Nebraska regions at 103 — just above the peer average of 100. However, 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 compromise 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.

This implies ??

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 propersity 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 Index (5th)
  • Quality of Life Index (5th)

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 pre 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 XX suggests the following:

  • A
  • B
  • C

To learn more, dig in yourself, at We encourage users to submit insights, questions and examples of strategies their community has employed in various areas of measure in the Nebraska Thriving Index.