December 5, 2019

Sandhills Insights Online Interactive Tool

Let’s talk about the Sandhills Region — a Nebraska Thriving Index of 109, just above the peer average of 100, and ranking second among six peer regions. It’s “average” ranking masks several areas of strengths and weakness.

It is an entrepreneurial region with high education attainment and strong social capital. These factors have allowed the region to match the peer average for the Growth Index and exceed the average for the Economic Opportunity & Diversity, Education & Skill and Social Capital Indexes.

Despite is obvious success, there are some areas of opportunity for the Sandhills region to catch up to its peers in Demographic Growth & Renewal as well as Quality of Life — it ranks last in both of these indexes.

Drilling in via the online interactive tool, we find that the region ranks last in all of the following measures:
Dependency ratio
Median age
Percent non-white
Percent Hispanic
Long-run population growth

Nebraska Thriving Index Insights: Sandhills Region

Nebraska Thriving Index Sandhills Regions - Ord, Neb.

Let’s talk about the Sandhills Region — a Nebraska Thriving Index of 109, just above the peer average of 100, and ranking second among six peer regions. This region includes Blaine, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Custer, Garfield, Grant, Greeley, Holt, Hooker, Keya Paha, Loup, Rock, Thomas, Valley and Wheeler counties. It’s “average” ranking masks several areas of strengths and weakness.

The
Sandhills region is an entrepreneurial place with high education attainment and
strong social capital. These factors have allowed the region to match the peer
average for the Growth Index and exceed the average for the Economic
Opportunity & Diversity, Education & Skill and Social Capital Indexes.

It
ranks first in the following drill down measures:

  • Employment
    growth
  • Employer
    establishments per 1,000 residents
  • Share
    of telecommuters
  • Share
    of workers in non-employer establishments
  • 25+
    high school attainment
  • 501c3
    organizations per 1,000 people

Despite
is obvious success, there are some areas of opportunity for the Sandhills
region to catch up to its peers in Demographic Growth & Renewal as well as
Quality of Life — it ranks last in both of these indexes.

The Demographic
Growth and Renewal Index measures long-term population growth, demographic
diversity, median age and dependency, and the growth of younger generations.
Drilling in via the online interactive tool, we find that the region ranks last
in all of the following measures:

  • Dependency
    ratio
  • Median
    age
  • Percent
    non-white
  • Percent
    Hispanic
  • Long-run
    population growth

It is
second to last in the final measure, Millennial and Gen Z balance change.

In
terms of quality of life, which is a measure of the appeal of living and
working in a region, the Sandhills Region earned the following rankings within
its peer group:

  • 1st
    – violent crime rate
  • 2nd
    – property crime rate
  • 3rd
    – daycare providers per capita
  • 4th
    – healthcare access (practitioners per capita)
  • 4th
    – natural amenities
  • 5th
    – commute time
  • 5th
    – Count of parks (state, local, national)
  • 6th
    – percent of housing built pre-1950
  • 6th
    – relative weekly wage
  • 6th
    – people per arts & rec worker

To
improve its fundamental economic conditions of the region and stem the rate of
population loss, while preserving its entrepreneurial culture, the Sandhills
Region could:

  • Harness
    the region’s entrepreneurial strength to further enhance service, retail and
    entertainment options and tourism activity
  • Improve
    broadband infrastructure in the region to improve business performance and
    quality of life.
  • Maintain
    a welcoming environment for minority populations to encourage demographic
    growth and diversity.
  • Grow workforce
    housing or take other steps to modernize the housing stock.

For
even more details about the Sandhills Region, use the interactive online tool
and download the print report at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/nethrivingindex.

November 21, 2019

Southwest Insights

Online Interactive Tool

Today we’re looking at the Southwest Region of the #NEThrivingIndex — 95 and ranking 5th among seven peers.

We can be proud of leading peers in economic conditions indexes — quality of life, social capital and infrastructure & cost of doing business. First place in the measures of commute times, age of housing stock and access to arts and recreation opportunities.

However the challenges are in the labor resources of the region. Specifically, the other prosperities index as well as education & skill and demographic growth & renewal indexes.

November 14, 2019

Tri-Cities Insights

Nebraska Thriving Index insights for the Tri-Cities region now available! See how this region earned the second-highest thriving index of all Nebraska regions at 136 AND a first-place ranking among its 7 comparison regions.

The Tri-Cities Region outpaces its peer regions in the Growth Index, ranking: 1st in returns on wealth (dividends, interest, and rent income) and 2nd in growth in households with children.

The region does, however, face some challenges. Its lowest ranking is fifth of seven peers in the Education & Skills Index.

Drilling down via the online interactive comparison tool, we see that although the Tri-Cities has healthy labor force participation rates, the region ranks significantly lower than peer regions for the measures: College attainment rate (4th of 7), High school attainment rate (5th of 7), Percent knowledge workers (5th of 7).

Nebraska Thriving Index identifies economic growth, quality of life, social capital as regional advantages in the state

According to the first annual Nebraska Thriving Index rural regions in the state are relatively strong for economic growth, quality of life and social capital. Concerns from the findings are in education and skill, which includes education attainment, labor force participation and employment in knowledge-based occupations.

Developed by researchers and students within the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business and the University of Nebraska at Kearney College of Business and Technology, the Nebraska Thriving Index is a benchmarking tool to help leaders spot trends and drill down into potential causes at a regional level. 

Nebraska Thriving Index the is the first report of its kind for rural areas of the state with indexes developed specifically for the rural context. It is supported and administered by the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska, and both the full report and interactive comparison tool are available at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/nethrivingindex.

Eric Thompson, Director of the Bureau of Business Research, leads the Nebraska Thriving Index research team. He also leads the data collection and analysis for the Omaha Barometer and Lincoln Economic Dashboard, which alerted him to the critical need for rural communities, and the state as a whole, to have the same type of analysis. 

“What our rural community leaders were working with in terms of data collection and analysis as well as comparison localities were not at as actionable as they could be,” Thompson said. “They needed true peers to gauge their successes and shortcomings, and they needed data collected with the rural context in mind. Now they have it.”

In total, eight rural Nebraska regions were created in an iterative process, which considered Nebraska Economic Development Regions, Nebraska Economic Development Districts, information from the Nebraska Department of Labor and the expertise of project participants.

Peer regions were selected via the Mahalanobis matching technique, which compares all regions according to the fundamental economic characteristics of each region, such as total population, economic structure and urban orientation. A list of five to eight benchmarking regions was selected based on the similarity according to these characteristics. 

Three indexes calculate economic growth and five indexes quantify economic conditions in rural Nebraska. Within each index, there are four to 10 variables, resulting in nearly 50 measures of data. The data was collected by four undergraduate research assistants from entities such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Community Survey, state websites and more.

“To have this quality of data and analysis so accessible and immediately usable frees up our limited resources to focus on strategies and implementation,” said Sharon Hueftle, executive director for Nebraska’s South Central Economic Development District. “We can target specific measures that we believe will help us reach our goals, and the year-over-year report will show us whether or not we’re making progress. This is a really significant contribution from the University to rural Nebraska, and we plan to help the research team continue to refine it.”

In terms of economic development, findings suggest that growth has been relatively strong in Nebraska’s micropolitan and small metropolitan regions, with three of eight regions ranked first among their peers.

Micropolitan and small metropolitan regions also performed well in quality of life, which includes commute times, relative wages, public safety, climate and recreational amenities, and access to health care, day care, parks, and arts and cultural opportunities. Quality of life is critical for attracting and retaining residents in a region. Three regions all ranked first among their peers.

Nearly all Nebraska regions rank high relative to their peers for social capital. The Sandhills region ranks first among its peers while the North 81, Northeast, Siouxland, and Southwest regions all rank second and the Southeast and Tri-Cities regions rank third. The Panhandle region ranks fourth. 

“The Rural Futures Institute envisioned this tool as a tangible deliverable to empower rural communities forward,” said Katelyn Ideus, RFI director of communications and public relations. “Getting it into the hands of economic developers, school and hospital administrators, elected officials and other stakeholders is really exciting for us. We believe the Nebraska Thriving Index can help them clarify their pursuits, substantiate their causes and demonstrate their successes. And we encourage everyone to reach out to us to help us evolve it as we look to publish again in 2020 and 2021.”

Nebraska regions listed with thriving index score (100 = peer average) and ranking among peers

North 81
144
1st

Northeast
103
3rd

Panhandle
98
3rd

Sandhills
109
2nd

Siouxland
105
3rd

Southeast
112
3rd

Southwest
95
5th

Tri-Cities
136
1st

###

Nebraska Thriving Index Insights: Southwest Region

Today we’re focusing on the Southwest region of the Nebraska Thriving Index by continuing to dig into the measures that comprise the overall indexes. The Southwest region has the lowest overall thriving index at 95 and ranks fifth among seven peers overall.

However, drilling down via the online interactive tool, we find that the Southwest outpaces its peer regions in the Quality of Life Index, ranking first for the measures:

  • Commute times (lowest among peers)
  • Age of housing stock (youngest among peers)
  • Access to arts and recreation opportunities

Also, the Southwest ranks second among its peer for the overall Infrastructure and Cost of Doing Business Index, as well as, for the Social Capital Index, including first for the measures:

  • Interstate access
  • Income tax rate advantage
  • Volunteer hours per resident
  • Share of Tree City USA counties

The areas of concern for the Southwest region primarily deal with the labor resources of the region. The Southwest region not only ranks last among peers in the overall Education & Skills Index but ranks low in the Demographic Growth & Renewal Index and Other Prosperity Index (5th of 7 for both). These indexes include measures of the population – or the pipeline of workers – and the quantity and quality of workers in the labor force. Drilling down into these, we see the region ranks significantly lower than peers on:

  • Labor force participation rates (5th of 7)
  • High school and college attainment rates (6th of 7)
  • Percent knowledge workers (6th of 7)
  • Growth in the share of Millennials and Generation Z (5th of 7)
  • Median age and life span (5th of 7)
  • Share of income from wealth (dividend, interest, and rent income; ranks last)

Overall, the Southwest region has workforce and workforce-related issues that appear to be affecting the economic performance of the region. The Southwest region may want to prioritize workforce development initiatives such as:

  • Enhancing awareness about innovative recruitment and retention practices in non-metro areas
  • Facilitating collaboration among strategic partners to address education, training, and workforce development needs of the regional business community
  • Identifying and reducing barriers to full labor participation

To learn more, dig in yourself, at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/nethrivingindex. 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.

Nebraska Thriving Index Insights: Tri-Cities Region

To continue digging into the details of the Nebraska Thriving Index, let’s focus next on the Tri-Cities region, which has the second highest thriving index at 136 and ranks first among its peers overall.

Using the online interactive tool, we find the Tri-Cities outpaces its peer regions in the Growth Index, ranking:

  • 1st in returns on wealth (dividends, interest, and rent income)
  • 2nd in growth in households with children

The Tri-Cities also ranks first among its peers for the overall Economic Opportunity & Diversity, including first for the entrepreneurial environment measures:

  • Entrepreneurial activity
  • Employer establishments per 1,000 residents

Also, the Tri-Cities ranks first for many aspects of quality of life, including:

  • Commute times (lowest)
  • Natural climate and recreation amenities
  • Designated national monuments and sites
  • Access to daycare providers

The region does, however, face some challenges. Its lowest ranking is fifth of seven peers in the Education & Skills Index. Drilling down into this, we see that although the Tri-Cities has healthy labor force participation rates, the region ranks significantly lower than peer regions for the measures:

  • College attainment rate (4th of 7)
  • High school attainment rate (5th of 7)
  • Percent knowledge workers (5th of 7)

This indicates that relative to its peers, the Tri-Cities region has difficulty attracting and retaining high-skill workers. 

The Tri-Cities region may want to prioritize workforce development initiatives such as:

  • Enhancing awareness about innovative recruitment and retention practices in non-metro and small metro areas
  • Facilitating collaboration among strategic partners to address education, training, and workforce development needs of the regional business community

To learn more, dig in yourself, at ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/nethrivingindex. 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.

November 4, 2019

Insights Article

Nebraska Thriving Index

Nebraska Thriving Index Insights: Panhandle Region!

With a Nebraska Thriving Index value of 98, the Panhandle region ranks just below the peer average of 100, but third among its six peer regions.

This “average” ranking masks several areas of strength and weakness.

The region is an entrepreneurial place that values education and offers a diverse pool of work opportunities. These features allow the Panhandle region to have a resilient economy, which is explicitly expressed through a first-place ranking in the Economic Opportunity & Diversity Index.

Nebraska Thriving Index Insights: Panhandle Region

Nebraska Thriving Index Panhandle Region, Garden County

Next up in our
exploration of the insights from the Nebraska Thriving Index — the Panhandle
region of Banner, Box Butte, Cheyenne, Dawes, Deuel, Garden, Kimball, Morrill,
Scottsbluff, Sheridan and Sioux counties.

With a Nebraska Thriving Index value of 98, the Panhandle
region ranks just below the peer average of 100, but third among its six peer
regions, which are listed in the full print report.

This “average” ranking masks several areas of strength and weakness.

The region is an entrepreneurial place that values education and offers a diverse pool of work opportunities. These features allow the Panhandle region to have a resilient economy, which is explicitly expressed through a first-place ranking in the Economic Opportunity & Diversity Index.

Using the interactive online tool, users can drill
down into the region’s rankings among its peers for each of the measures that
comprise this index:

  • 1st in industrial diversity
  • 1st in telecommuters
  • 1st in occupational diversity
  • 1st (tied) for businesses per
    1,000 residents
  • 2nd in entreprenial activity per
    1,000 people
  • 4th in percent of workers  in non-employer establishment
  • 4th in non-farm proprietors per
    1,000 persons

Despite the
opportunities, the Panhandle region lags in terms of economic and demographic
growth.

Compared to its
six peer regions, in the Growth Index the Panhandle ranks last in total
employment growth and private employment. The following are its rankings in the
other growth index measures, all of which are over the 2014 – 2017 timeframe:

  • 5th in private wage growth
  • 5th in growth in households with
    children
  • 6th in dividend, interest and rent
    income growth

As for the
Demographic Growth & Renewal Index, the Panhandle ranks fourth and well
below the peer average for all of the measures comprising this index:

  • 2nd in percent of population that
    is Hispanic
  • 4th in Millennial and Gen Z
    balance change
  • 4th in median age
  • 4th in percent of population that
    is non-white
  • 5th in long-run population growth
    (growth in the population
    over the last 17 years)
  • 5th in the dependency ratio (share of the population below
    the age of 18 and over the age of 65)

The Panhandle region can work to improve its fundamental
economic conditions to encourage economic and demographic growth, while
preserving its entrepreneurial culture. Specific steps may include:

  • Build on existing strengths in the
    Education & Skills Index by encouraging more residents to pursue
    certificates and community college degrees, which have value in the labor
    market, and help more young people complete high school.
  • Harness the region’s
    entrepreneurial strength to further enhance service, retail and entertainment
    options.
  • Improve highway infrastructure in
    the region.
  • Improve access to health care
    practitioners.
  • Grow “workforce housing” or take
    other steps to modernize the housing stock.

The other Indexes
and their rankings for the Panhandle region include:

  • 3rd in Education & Skill Index: education attainment, labor force participation and employment in knowledge-based occupations
  • 3rd in Infrastructure & Cost of Doing Business Index: broadband internet access, presence of interstate, count of 4-year colleges, weekly wage rate, top marginal income tax rate, count of qualified opportunity zones
  • 3rd in Quality of Life Index: commute time, percent of housing built pre-1950, relative weekly wage rate, violent crime rate, property crime rate, natural amenities, health care access (practitioners per capita), daycare providers per capita, count of parks (state, local, national), people per arts and rec worker
  • 4th in Social Capital Index: number of 501c3 organizations per 1,000 persons, volunteer rate (state), volunteer hours per resident (state), voter turnout, share of Tree City USA counties
  • 6th in Other Prosperity Index: life span, non-wage sources of income, income volatility and poverty rate

Have a question,
insight or suggestion for the Nebraska Thriving Index? Reach out to us!