The following article was originally featured in the Omaha World-Herald on April 14, 2020.
Many Nebraskans were likely surprised to see the University of Nebraska Medical Center featured in the likes of the New York Times, Esquire and CNN for its groundbreaking research and quarantine efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps you can attribute this to our humble Midwestern roots, where we’re quick to acknowledge the work of others and yet downplay the exciting, innovative work accomplished by Nebraska businesses and educational institutions.
It is important that Nebraskans, and those thinking of moving to Nebraska, know of our state’s key role in business incubation, architecture, technological development and yes, fighting pandemics.
Having a reputation for innovation across a variety of fields greatly enhances our state’s ability to recruit and retain talented individuals, the key drivers of the economy who will become our most vital resource as our nation heals from the scars inflicted upon us by the coronavirus.
As committee chair of the Nebraska Tech Collaborative, an Aksarben Foundation workforce initiative, I’ve seen firsthand the need to keep our best and brightest in state, as well as to showcase the monumental work that has the potential to make Nebraska a magnet for top talent.
If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has emphasized these needs even more. There will soon be a time when we’re rebuilding from this tragedy, and every state, Nebraska included, will rely on the most creative among us to restore the jobs pipeline, to develop new ideas that spring into tomorrow’s most popular enterprises and to keep the wheels of progress moving thanks to the combined efforts of tech start-ups and industry icons alike.
The coronavirus is a crucible, but it’s one our civic-minded business leaders can and should confront by asking a series of questions.
When so many companies are being forced to lay off or furlough workers, how can we use a combination of private and public resources to protect, and even hire, employees while pushing our technologies and our business strategies forward? How can we make sure budding entrepreneurs still have the avenues to create brand-new companies that provide a vital economic engine to our state? And how can we ensure that we use this time to draw a more diverse employee base into the fold, benefiting from their skills and fresh ideas?
Can we recognize that this isn’t the time to fall back on the same playbook, but to expand our outreach efforts to previously overlooked communities so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of decades past?
Finally, we must make sure the incredible work being done in Nebraska, from UNMC to so many other exceptional endeavors, isn’t being overlooked. The state of Nebraska can compete with anyone when it comes to ingenuity, hard work and dedication to our fellow man. This is the time for leaders from all sectors to recommit to our values, for the good of our state and the people within it.