Lincoln Economic Development Dashboard Confirms Third Party Validation
by Jenny Sundberg
Lincoln has been sweeping national rankings for the past three years; building a portfolio of third party validation that not many other cities can compare with. This year, Lincoln jumped three places from
No. 7 to No. 4 in Best Places for Business and Careers. In 2012, Lincoln took the top spot for Best Cities for Find a Job according to AOLJobs.com. In the same year, Lincoln received accolades for low cost of living, low unemployment rate, overall outstanding economic performance and the list goes on.
Crowned Happiest City in America by Gallup’s Wellness Index, Lincoln had earned the top accolade and had the capability to grow a sweltering head, yet remained humble, knowing there was more room for improvement.
In June, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development released the Economic Dashboard for Lincoln at the annual Economic Development Breakfast. In years past, these two organizations presented the community with findings from the business retention and expansion surveys. This year, both parties implemented a new reporting mechanism to further engage and educate the community.
The Economic Dashboard for Lincoln began with the collaboration of the Lincoln Chamber, the Lincoln Partnership, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bureau of Business Research, the Lincoln Chamber’s Board of Directors and the Lincoln Partnership’s Steering Committee. The conversation within the group centered around two questions: what are we trying to accomplish and how do we know if we are making any progress?
In an effort to continuously improve the business community and the standard of living for residents, the Lincoln Chamber and Partnership knew these questions must be posed to community leaders. In order to measure progress, the new reporting mechanism was created in the fall of 2012. The group researched peer communities who economically and demographically mirrored Lincoln to measure how Lincoln stacked up nationally. In addition, the group looked to aspiring cities that are generally much larger with more resources to discover what Lincoln was missing.
Finally, five key markers were identified to judge Lincoln’s performance: Economic Performance, Talent, Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Quality of Life.
Here’s how Lincoln stacked up:
Economic Performance: Lincoln was above the U.S. average and ranked at the top of its peers in four out of six markers including average hourly earnings growth, lowest unemployment rate, GDP growth per capita and residential building permits.
Talent: Lincoln topped the rankings in all categories amongst its peer cities including educational attainment, population growth, and labor force participation. It also stood strong amongst aspirational cities, too.
Entrepreneurship: Numbers showed Lincoln’s room for improvement when it came to entrepreneurship. Only topping two of five categories including growth in employer establishments and falling behind the U.S. average and its peer cities in categories which included business formation rate and average income per non-farm proprietor. Yet, Lincoln understands its opportunities for improvement. In July, Entrepreneur Magazine highlighted Lincoln as one of the top 5 emerging hubs in America, proving Lincoln is on the right road to success.
Innovation: Lincoln continued to succeed in a pool of its peer cities by ranking high in several categories including percent of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations, professional degrees, and STEM graduates. Lincoln ranked lower amongst its aspiring cities, yet held the highest percentage for percent of college students relative to total population.
Quality of Life: As many would assume, Lincoln scored favorably in the quality of life category. With high
rankings in all but one component, Lincoln proved to be a great place to live. In a recent Gallup ranking, Lincoln was named as the happiest city in the US. Lincoln also flourished amongst its aspirational cities, ranking the highest in low cost of living, short commute time and culture.
Overall, through the Dashboard, Lincoln proved to be a great city that is nationally recognized as progressive and on the move; a city that had rightfully earned its portfolio of national accolades. Not perfect, but through the Dashboard, Lincolnw found windows of opportunity for future success.