top of page

The Future Is Now: How NEWbraska™ and WOWBIZ Nebraska Can Shatter the Brain Drain Barrier

by Lynn Hinderaker, NEWbraska Partners / Growth Dynamix Consulting

Why do bright young business grads choose to leave Nebraska? What do they really want? Is it really possible to change this chronic, pressing situation? And who really has the answers?

Nebraska's Pressing Problems

Number 37 on small business survival

Number 42 on taxes

Manufacturing employment is down 2-3%.

Little support for entrepreneurs, thus little new business formation.

Ethanol - which impacts agriculture - is way down

Manufacturing employment is down 2-3%.

Low commodity prices

Falling wages and salaries

The scientific capacity for innovation is very low

Many strategic reports have been submitted to Nebraska's state officials since 2009 about the problems listed above; unfortunately, a flurry of projects and tactics have not been enough to retain and attract young professionals. The brain drain/workforce struggle is even worse in rural or small town areas (although subsidized broadband Internet may soon disrupt that pattern).

"In an era of ever-tightening labor shortages, it will become increasingly important for companies in Nebraska to expand the ways they source and retain talent."


Based on research conducted 2.5 years ago in a Starbucks in Lincoln, Nebraska, the key is not lower taxes, affordable housing or help with repayment of college tuition. Instead, it involves the lack of 'interesting/challenging work' that takes place inside an 'interesting business culture' that is 'doing new things' - preferably in an 'interesting downtown' - where work and play are both accessible without driving a car.

The words 'new' and 'innovation' came up often in the coffee-infused dialogue as did 'boring' and 'old-school.'

This is breakthrough insight. The authentic feedback from the young people we are trying to attract means:

  1. Nebraska companies must increase both sales and internal capacity as well as project a flexible, learning-oriented business culture that is augmented by an exciting community/lifestyle culture.

  2. Those key aspects of business success must be driven and shaped by an innovation mindset; if that happens and it is well publicized, young professionals in their twenties and thirties will rethink their reservations working with Nebraska businesses.

(This is the primary, emotional dimension of choosing to work or not work in Nebraska. The logical dimension sounds like, "Besides, it's affordable to live there." But the emotional aspect is most important and most misunderstood by Nebraska's mayors, economic developers and chambers.)

This is why many young professionals lack pride in the state of Nebraska. They know that successful business owners have a mindset that doesn't prioritize innovation or newness. (This carries over into minimal new business formation and virtually no venture capital compared to all other states.) After years of the same "we've-always-done-it-this-way" pattern, the workforce's enthusiasm begins to dissipate. When workers finally leave the state, Nebraska's business owners scratch their heads.

Key issue: only a small number of companies take innovation seriously, especially companies that have been succeeding for years. Most don't know how to begin or how to allocate resources appropriately without 'starving' the core business. They have no access to substantive 'guides' or reliable coaches in strategic innovation, per se. Yet this type of education could be the key factor for talent attraction success in Nebraska.

If Nebraska's companies begin to innovate with the help of NEWbraska Partners, they also need a way to glamorize or showcase those efforts so aspiring careerists can 'find' the employer on the web, reach out and connect themselves to a 'movement' (such as sales automation) towards something new - something beyond where the company is right now. This requires a media host who can make the digital business content compelling and elaborate on what the video business-guest is discussing.

One of the NEWbraska Partners worked with UNL and iTunes in 2010 and vaulted the university's interviews above comparable videos from Harvard, Wharton, MIT and Stanford. In two months, UNL's business videos were 'Number 1' in popularity on iTunes.

Summary: In order to glamorize innovation, NEWbraska provides a TV show, an interview-podcast and a regional business magazine to its members.

Summary #2: Nebraska's aversion to risk, downtown development and the lack of super precise target marketing that focuses on talent, not employers, has pushed the state to the back of the line in several ways . Instead of analyzing the problem by using a series of check boxes, it's necessary to think more systemically, holistically and experientially.

This all leads to NEWbraska's mission: to bolster economic activity in Nebraska through 1) ecosystem collaboration, 2) B-to-B marketing support, 3) celebratory journalism, 4) events and 5) training.

NEWbraska resembles a regional version of Linkedin. However, unlike most business communities, NEWbraska members receive assistance in cultivating relationships with non-members as well as online community members. This doubles the value-impact.

By fully leveraging the resources that are built-in to the NEWbraska innovation ecosystem, members can realize a massive ROI (6000%+) with a miniscule investment. Examples

  1. Using NEWbraska members as focus group participants to provide input on new product introductions;

  2. Bolstering awareness through interviews on cable TV and YouTube as well as videos and articles that make recruiting and customer development easier;

  3. Building sales and driving geographic expansion through personal referrals and introductions offered by other NEWbraska members;

  4. Getting quick answers on pressing issues from other members by using the Q&A Forum;

  5. Receiving free instruction on innovation, change management and leadership during turbulent times.

  6. Tapping into the wisdom and experience of NEWbraska Partners that will help with rebranding, digital lead generation, nurturing high potential managers who desire leadership roles and more.

  7. Accelerating the personal development of leaders and business owners through personality analysis, creativity, mindfulness and emotional intelligence.

Comments or questions? 402-208-5519

6 views0 comments


bottom of page