YP Council Corner: Jeff Spiehs, MAPA

Did you know that Nebraska has the highest percentage of elected state senators under 40 in the United States? I certainly had no idea. (11 of the 49 state senators are under the age of 40)

This fact is encouraging for us YPs as it reinforces a consistent theme: empowering young people by providing leadership opportunities is important in retaining and attracting young talent to our region.

Keeping with this theme, these young senators are part of creating the Next Generation Nebraska. Next Generation Nebraska’s goal is to introduce legislation that will help our state recruit and retain young people. The effort is part of the Millennial Action Project, a national movement of young elected officials working together.

The group will listen to YPs across the state to better understand different ways to attract young people to Nebraska and persuade them to stay.
The group of senators called for a roundtable discussion with YPs from all over Nebraska. I was fortunate to be able to attend and represent the Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals. So, what did we discuss?

Representing the YP Council, I focused my suggestions on topics that the YP Survey uncovered as issues that are important to attract and retain young professionals. These primarily were around economic development, and alternative transportation.

Economic Development:
The Nebraska Advantage Act is the primary tool we have in Nebraska to attract businesses to relocate to our state. We discussed the need for the Nebraska Advantage Act to be re-evaluated so that it supports more small business needs and is easier to navigate for the entrepreneurial community. The conversation centered around how the Act could be used to assist locally grown companies to see further growth.

The 2015 YP Survey found that YPs in Omaha placed a high value on public transportation, bike infrastructure and walkable neighborhoods. However, the survey indicated that YPs have the perception that these topics are not a high priority for local leaders. In our Next Generation roundtable, we discussed how to increase funding for public transportation (Nebraska is last in the nation for transit spending), and how to use multi modal (walking, biking, bus, carpool) to make it easier to get around Omaha without a vehicle. The consensus was that investing in these transportation alternatives would be essential in attracting YPs from outside of Omaha.
If these topics are of interest to you, here are steps you can take:

  1. Attend the YP Summit on March 9. Connect to local leaders during the breakout sessions and hear how development in our city is connected to the issues highlighted in Next Generation Nebraska during the State of the City segment of the YP Summit.
  2. If you have ideas for legislation or want to communicate directly with Next Generation Nebraska, please send your ideas to nebraska@millennialaction.org.

As young people, there are times when we feel as if change can’t happen fast enough and we are easily labeled as “impatient.” This can be a good thing as it can lead to being action oriented. However, if we look at it another way, as young people we also have the ability to take the long view and think about the kind of change that moves as fast as trust can be established. That kind of trust means showing up when asked and sharing with leaders what young people in Omaha want and demonstrate how we can be an asset in that kind of change. If we fast forward 15 years we will be the leaders of our organizations, companies and communities.

In the current political environment, we have the opportunity to engage, collaborate and work for the greater good to build the kind of trust that truly makes remarkable progress for our city. I hope you share in my gratitude to our elected officials, both locally and on the state level that ask us to be participants in creating a more prosperous, welcoming community for the next generation.