Fueled by the finance and insurance industry, Omaha is a leader in economic growth

Economists and business leaders say there is no simple explanation for that growth.

According to data compiled by the Greater Omaha Chamber, jobs in the industry remained relatively flat, but wages were more than double the national average. On paper, higher labor productivity appears to have contributed to higher output, Decker said.

Rapid adaptation of the industry during the pandemic may have spurred growth.

In 2020, Nebraska Banks emerged Early leaders In helping businesses access forgivable loans through the federal check protection program, said Liddell Woodbury, president of the Nebraska Bankers Association.

At Woodbury’s First Nebraska Bank in the Valley, he recalls, employees worked until 3 or 4 a.m. on business applications.

When applications were approved, the money allowed businesses to stay afloat and keep their workers employed, Woodbury said. Banks had financially healthy customers who could repay loans and avoid prepayments.

State leaders chose to reopen the economy quickly, and businesses are ready for it, Woodbury said.

“The reason we did well was because we were consistent. We don’t have total layoffs,” Woodbury said. „We didn’t have to start trying to completely rebound. We had a system.

It may sound corny, Woodbury said, but Nebraskans are resilient, and their rebound from the pandemic spurred economic gains that were later realized.

Some big-name financial and insurance companies have also contributed to the growth of the industry.

Fiserv, a Wisconsin-based financial technology company that employs more than 5,000 people in the metro, increased its production in two core business functions by 6% in 2022 without significantly increasing its workforce, spokesman Chase Wallace said.

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The 2022 Omaha boom has been years in the making, Greater Omaha Chamber President Heath Mello said.

Lawmakers and economic development officials have fostered an environment in Omaha where insurance and financial companies need to locate and expand their operations, he said.

„This is what happens when you’re strategic about growing a business,” Mello said.

The 28% growth for finance and insurance is „impressive but not sustainable,” Decker said.

There are some clouds on the horizon. Richard Beyer, president of the Nebraska Bankers Association, said the state’s labor shortage will ultimately stifle economic growth for the industry.

But Omaha’s economy is likely to see strong growth — about 3% — because of its diversity, business leaders and economists agree.

The city — with its two medical schools and several major hospitals — has become a center for health care and scientific research, said Creighton University economics professor Ernie Koss.

A growing concert scene and events like the College World Series have fueled Omaha’s reputation as a regional tourist destination, Koss said. Agriculture and food processing maintain a steady presence in the region’s economy, he added.

The broad base of Omaha’s economy creates less opportunity for significant downturns and provides more stability for investors to rely on, Decker said.

Local economic growth isn’t just good for businesses’ balance sheets, Mello said. It creates new good-paying, high-demand jobs, he said.

Having a „growth profile” makes Omaha an attractive destination for newcomers looking for job opportunities and a high quality of life, Kass said.

„2022 was a very good year for Omaha, but with Omaha’s profile, I think the future is bright.”

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