Lincoln hosts statewide summit as Nebraska seeks to remain ‘a top-tier tech state’

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and the University of Nebraska co-hosted a first of its kind statewide innovation and tech summit on Friday.

Business leaders, developers, researchers, educators and more gathered at the Nebraska Innovation Campus to discuss Nebraska’s place in the global tech competition.

This comes just after NU President Ted Carter wrote an op-ed on Thursday stressing the need to grow our state’s workforce as quickly as possible.

Carter said every sector has to compete harder and smarter for talent because Nebraska’s economic success depends on it.

Cathy Lang, executive director of the Nebraska Business Development Center at NU, said while the university’s primary goal is education, the research it does can benefit businesses and the technology we use in Nebraska.

“I think the summit, from a business perspective, is really important because it’s an opportunity for business, university and other partners to meet together to share ideas and help create relationships,” she said.

Chamber President Bryan Slone said partnerships between universities and the business sector will develop the tech jobs that will be the future of the state.

“Any of our industries, whether it’s ag, or manufacturing, or even education or health care, we’re moving to a digital world in which the competitive nature of those industries is changing overnight,” he said.

Slone said over 50% of Nebraska’s gross domestic product comes from those four industries, so it’s important that we advance the technology used in them.

He also announced at the summit the start of Tech Nebraska, a new statewide organization to unite Nebraska’s tech community.

The organization is going to be working with companies like Kiewit, Google, Methodist Health System, Union Pacific, Meta and Workshop.

The information technology sector contributes nearly $4.5 billion to our GDP, and Nebraska ranks in the top 15 states for most tech jobs per capita, according to the chamber.

It wants “to build Nebraska’s reputation as a top-tier tech state.”

In a press release, the chamber said interested companies may contact them at nechamber@nechamber.com.

Google’s vice president of data centers, Joe Kava, gave the keynote speech at the summit. He said the company wants to use the workforce here in Nebraska to develop it into a tech hub.

“What we have here in Nebraska is a can-do attitude,” he told Channel 8. “People know how to figure things out, they understand how to address challenges and fix them in innovative ways. That’s really what data centers are all about, and you find that here.”

He said Google has been investing in the metro areas of Nebraska for years and is looking forward to continuing its expansion here.

In his op-ed, Carter said that to have any hope of filling crucial positions, we need to keep our homegrown talent from going elsewhere and convince more skilled workers to come here.

He adds that the university is key to accomplishing those goals and that he’s “the first to say we are not satisfied with our current enrollment. We are not alone nationally in experiencing enrollment challenges. But it’s not the Nebraska way to settle for the status quo. There’s no reason the University of Nebraska shouldn’t compete hard for every smart Nebraska kid – and for the highest-achieving Nebraska students, no institution should offer a better financial deal than the University of Nebraska.”

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