State Sen. Mike Flood will lead a live, virtual town hall Sunday evening on how tech-based business and jobs will help grow Northeast Nebraska.
“From what I’ve heard, there’s 1% of our population who are builders. And by a builder, I mean in a town of 25,000, there’s probably 250 of them,” Flood said.
“They are the people whose minds just go. They have more ideas than they have fingers and toes. They fail a few times. They won once or twice, but they are builders by nature. They want to make something happen,” he said.
The Norfolk senator is seeking to reach some of the 250 or so builders in town, as well as other builders in Nebraska when he moderates a virtual town hall on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m.
The town hall will air on News Channel Nebraska and the Growing Together Facebook page. The Aksarben Foundation is helping to sponsor the Growing Together initiative, which seeks to keep more young people in Northeast Nebraska by creating jobs and opportunities locally.
Flood said he hopes to inspire the builders in every county of Nebraska and let them know there are resources to help them unlock their potential.
“Beyond that, I would like people in the Norfolk area to know that we can’t wait for the next factory with a smokestack. In the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s and beyond, landing a Nucor division is about the best thing that has ever happened to us. And it has happened multiple times since, and for all the right reasons. And that’s still going to be a priority,” he said.
But in the future, Flood said there are going to be fewer jobs in manufacturing. Engineers on both coasts are designing processes that reduce the need for labor. In the information economy, the ideas and solutions using technology to solve problems will create the value.
Those who watch the town hall will learn about technology-based economic development vs. traditional economic development. They will hear from entrepreneurs, angel investors and the economic development leaders who help create this new form of business.
“If innovation only happens in Omaha and Lincoln, we are losing out on creating wealth and opportunities here at home,” Flood said.
One of the things to keep in mind is that people with good ideas don’t have to be software engineers.
“The reality is you have to identify a problem that you have a solution for using hardware or software to lower the cost of the supply chain,” he said.
A lot of the U.S. economy is coming out of cities like Boston; Austin, Texas; and San Jose, California. The rest of America — including cities like St. Louis, Philadelphia, Lincoln and smaller cities like Norfolk — have taken notice, Flood said.
Already in 2002, Gov. Mike Johanns recognized the role that rural entrepreneurship played in the economy. In 2011, the Nebraska Legislature started investing in a program called Invest Nebraska.
It makes at-risk capital available to people who have ideas on how to solve problems using technology.
“One of the things that I think is especially difficult to explain in rural America is this idea that there’s actually value in failure,” Flood said.
That’s because even in failure, it brings other ideas and other innovations, he said.