Monday, September 14, 2009

Former Nebraskans say jobs would bring them back

By NATE JENKINS , 09.14.09, 11:41 AM EDT

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Luring former Nebraskans back to the state may not require slick ad campaigns or overcoming negative perceptions of nasty weather and the like.

It seems good jobs may trump all else, a recent study by Gallup suggests.

State officials say they are pleasantly surprised at how many former Nebraskans, especially younger ones, appear willing to move back to the state only if they could find a good job.

A little more than half of the 2,400 people interviewed as part of Gallup study said they would be willing to return to Nebraska for a good job.

"The truth is, for those people with a reasonable chance of moving back - including young people - there's really just one issue: Can they find a good job?" said Glenn Phelps, an expert on labor migration and job creation at Gallup.

State officials released a copy of the study to The Associated Press.

Gallup officials stress that the study was not a scientific survey with a representative sample of all Nebraskans who have moved from the state, and was only for internal use by state officials.

State officials say the survey also highlights the problem of a lack of one-stop job shopping for jobs available in Nebraska.

While there may be more job information at people's fingertips than ever, they say, it can be hard to know what Web sites to peruse, or who to call. Companies often pick one of the many ways that now exist to advertise jobs - from national job-search Web sites, to their own Web sites, to local newspapers.

"Too often now, you have to know what companies exist and then learn how that company advertises its job openings," said Dan Curran with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

"This isn't going to be easy," Curran said of compiling openings for a wide variety of jobs across the state into one or two Web sites. "How do you create an information portal and not put someone out?" like another job-search site in the state, he said.

The state hopes sometime this fall to have answers to help lure former residents home.

A marketing plan to draw people back to Nebraska is also expected to be crafted, and community groups will be encouraged to keep in touch with people after they leave Nebraska. The hope is that doing so will help encourage former Nebraskans to return.

"A lot of high-school information disappears with the senior class," Curran said. "But if that information is retained, you can keep a line of communication and let people know what opportunities are available."

One of the recommendations Gallup gave the state was that if people get help finding a job in Nebraska "all else can be managed."

The notion that non-work-related factors should be emphasized when trying to attract people, especially the younger crowd, has become popular among urban planners and economic-development officials in recent years.

Curran said the study is promising because it points to more clear-cut solution for the state as it competes against others that pour millions of dollars into ads touting "cool" features like mountain ranges.

"What the study tells us is you need to communicate that you have good jobs available all over the state," Curran said.

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