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Gov. Heineman Signs Incentive Package Designed to Create 21st Century Jobs (May 26)

(Lincoln, Neb.) Gov. Dave Heineman was joined by legislative leaders to sign into law the new generation of benefits designed to enhance Nebraska's competitive edge by expanding existing businesses and attracting new opportunities to the state. The Nebraska Advantage, LB 312 and LB 90, emphasizes job creation and training for Nebraska workers.

"This package is essential to growing Nebraska's economy," Gov. Heineman said. "It's important that Nebraskans understand the hard work and cooperation that went into this package and I want to commend everyone involved for making the future of our state a priority.

"It is gratifying to know that this package addresses the needs of businesses and communities of every size, from fledgling entrepreneurs to large corporations and manufacturers looking to expand in Nebraska and will provide a more equitable playing field for our small businesses trying to compete in the global marketplace."

The Nebraska Advantage was designed to create a business climate that makes Nebraska the preferred location for starting and growing a business. The long-term goals of the package are to promote growth of existing companies through job retention and new capital investments; to increase the number of successful startup business ventures in the state; foster the commercialization of new products and ideas; and to recognize the different needs of Nebraska's many industries.

Sen. Dave Landis, Chairman of the Legislature's Revenue Committee and sponsor of LB 312, said, "The team that has forged this bill hopes it represents a focused, targeted and energetic approach to expanding economic opportunities in Nebraska."

A new component of the incentives package is the Nebraska Small Business Advantage, which is part of a larger program that sets out incentives for companies that impact communities through capital investments ranging from $1 million to $30 million, and job creation ranging from 10 to 100 new jobs. The first of five tiers allows companies making a $1 million investment and creating 10 jobs to qualify for tax credits.

Concepts originally proposed as separate legislative bills also have been incorporated into the structure of LB 312 and LB 90, including state and local sales tax exemptions for the purchase of manufacturing machinery, equipment and related services.

The Nebraska Research and Development Advantage allows qualifying research and development companies to claim a tax credit equal to 3 percent of increased expenses related to research and development.

The Nebraska Micro-Enterprise Tax Credit Program allows a business with five or fewer employees that makes up to $10,000 in new investment in an economically struggling community or area will qualify for a 20 percent refundable investment tax credit.

Originally proposed by the Governor, the Nebraska Rural Development Advantage amends the Employment Expansion and Investment Incentive Act, formerly LB 608 passed in 2003, to provide qualified businesses with refundable tax incentives for projects that create two new jobs and invest $125,000 in counties with less than 15,000 residents.

"I am very pleased we were able to make rural economic development a priority by extending this program to small businesses in our smaller counties," Gov. Heineman said. "This will help ensure small business owners have an opportunity to play a role in the future growth of their communities through investments made in their own business growth."

LB 90, the second bill making up the Nebraska Advantage, addresses rural development and emphasizes the contributions made by Nebraska's entrepreneurs, as well as agricultural and value-added industries, including alternative fuels such as ethanol.

Sen. Roger Wehrbein, sponsor of LB 90, said, "I am pleased that we've been able to make a significant investment in Nebraska's many ethanol projects and that we've done it in a reasonable manner. This bill provides many new opportunities and will support the efforts of local leaders to encourage rural community development for years to come."

The Nebraska Agriculture Innovation Advantage reauthorizes a value-added grant program, providing grants up to $75,000 to cooperatives, groups or associations to help offset the costs of research, education, training and market development of value- added products sold by producers.

The Building Entrepreneurial Communities Act provides grants of up to $75,000 to rural communities to implement collaborative projects addressing issues related to chronic economic distress, unemployment, below-average per capita income, and severe population loss.

Earlier in the week the Governor signed $15 million for job training as part of the mainline budget. The Nebraska Customized Job Training Advantage provides a flexible, discretionary custom job- training program to help ensure the state's workforce is prepared for advances in rapidly changing industries.

"Each of these components will help keep Nebraska's economy strong through greater investment in businesses of all sizes and the workforce of tomorrow," Gov. Heineman said.