Growing Nebraska’s economic base through agriculture is not solely about growing crops or raising livestock. Nebraska has a manufacturing sector that is closely tied to agriculture – and that creates thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity.
Nebraska is the second largest ethanol producer in the nation. But that industry would not have grown here if not for the state’s ability to produce corn and cattle.
Nebraska is typically first or second in the nation in terms of cattle on feed and beef processing. The state is second in ethanol production and third in corn production.
“That’s not an accident,” said Ken Lemke, an economist with the Nebraska Public Power District. “It all comes together because there is a symbiotic relationship between those three sectors – and Nebraska is blessed to have a robust presence in all three.”
Nebraska’s ethanol plants have created more than 1,300 full-time jobs, with thousands more jobs created in related sectors. “The ethanol industry has been very positive, but it has also created additional investment that is staying local,” said Dave Behle, key accounts and economic development manager with Dawson Public Power. “Feedlots, dairies, pork production, trucking, feed mills – all that money stays in the community and that is huge.”
The Cargill plant at Blair was the world’s first to transform corn into polylactic acid (PLA), which is used to make compostable bioplastics. Consider as well that the world’s top echelon of pivot irrigation companies are all headquartered in Nebraska, which makes sense given that the technology itself was created here – and the fact that Nebraska has more irrigated acres than any other state. That is also a reason that Nebraska is one of the top locations for seed genetic companies to develop new hybrids and varieties.
Nebraska is home to companies that manufacture everything from tillage equipment to fertilizers; from combines to plastic pivot tires; from grain bins to cattle fencing.
“We have a new $1.2 million truck washing facility here in Lexington and it’s the only facility on the interstate for cattle trucks between Denver and Omaha,” said Jennifer Wolf, economic development director in Dawson County. “We have a high-tech company that purchases blood from the Tyson beef processing facility in Lexington and extracts the iron to make iron supplements. Without a thriving livestock industry, we wouldn’t have spin-off businesses like this that lead to new investment and jobs right here.”